By Holly Tucker
I love my job. I came to Vanderbilt about 14 years ago as a newly minted Ph.D. I get to teach achingly bright students really cool things.
I’ve had a chance to follow my curiosity wherever it takes me. Here’ s one place where it has landed…
In my History of Medicine Course: Anatomy and Dissection! Early illustration plates are a wonder, and a marvel, to behold. Take a peek at this early one from Jacopo da Carpi, ca. 1450- ca. 1530 from the Wellcome Institute Image Archive.
As this early plate suggests, anatomy in the early sixteenth century was in its nascent years. Andreas Vesalius’s De Fabric was still several decades away. Most of the earliest anatomy manuals were derived from animal dissections–rather than human dissection. When Vesalius hit the scene around 1643, human anatomy would be catapulted into prime time. The anatomist not only used real human cadavers (usually pulled from the gallows, or freshly dug up at cemetaries); he made sure the world knew that he performed the dissections himself. Usually this gruesome task was reserved for the lowest-man on the medical totem pole: the barber-surgeon.
For more on the history of anatomy, complete with some amazing illustrations: take a peek at the National Library of Medicine’s magnificient exhibit, Dream Anatomy.