Andreas Vesalius 1514 -1564

In 1500 the most important books used in the training of doctors were those written by Claudius Galen. Galen's ideas had been dominant for hundreds of years, but were only proved wrong for the first time by Andreas Vesalius.

Who was Andreas Vesalius?
Vesalius was born in Brussels and completed his medical training in Paris. He went on to become Professor of Anatomy at Padua University in Italy. During the Renaissance Padua was a famous centre for medical training. Vesalius believed that the dissection of human bodies was necessary if doctors were to find out how bodies worked. However, the dissection of human bodies was not allowed by the Church. Vesalius therefore had to resort to taking bones from graves and even stealing a body from the gallows so that he could explore the anatomy of the human body.

How did he become well known?
In 1543 Vesalius wrote the first major book about anatomy. It was called 'de Humani Corporis Fabrica' (The Fabric of the Human Body). Vesalius worked closely with the famous artist Titian who produced 277 anatomical illustrations for his book. He pioneered the use of highly illustrated medical text, where the drawings showed the human body in greater detail then ever before.

How did he change medical ideas?
Vesalius's work brought about an important change in medical thinking. He was able to prove that some of Galen's theories were wrong. Galen, who was only able to dissect animals, assumed that humans had the same anatomy. Vesalius by performing dissections on humans revealed anatomical structures previously unknown.

How important was Vesalius?
Vesalius helped establish surgery as a separate medical profession. At the time, though he was criticised, as many people refused to believe that Galen's work could be wrong. The popularity of Vesalius's book, however, meant that his views gradually gained acceptance and greater emphasis began to be placed upon the study of anatomy in medical training.