, Research Paper
Just like all other science which developed and grew to the sciences we know
today, anatomy and physiology progressed through curiosity, the drive to discover and
understand as well as to ?break the norm of things?, which at the time was Galen.
In the early 1500?s, health science was still a mix of mysticism, religion, science
and incorrect information. Ideas, techniques, and practice were all dominated by these
factors. With the ever watchful eye of the church, change and experiment faced great
scrutiny with any unorthodox, ungodly idea. Hands-on surgeons were nothing more than
butchers, and medical students in certain cases had to resort to grave robbing.
With the ?somewhat? inaccurate writings of Galen influencing many ?physicks?
of the day, the unwillingness to change only proved to be yet another obstacle. But there
were those who would defy, and search for the answers with the drive and devotion
needed to elevate the scientific awareness in medicine.
Galen was one of the most influential Greek writers on science whose works
were the leading authority in medicine and ?physick?. So impressive were Galens?
works that his writings reached and influenced Muslim countries. His work would also
survive the test of time, with his writings reappearing and consulted in time for the
Renaissance, although, some of his works were still being circulated among the Arabs?
much earlier than in Europe.
He understood the importance of dissection and observation and ?was said to be
brilliant in diagnosis?. Galen also knew the importance of experimentation and
hands-on work. ?If anyone wishes to observe the works of Nature, he should put his trust
not in books on anatomy but in his own eyes…but so long as he only reads, he will be
more likely to believe all the earlier anatomists because there are many of them.?
But, despite Galens? infallible writings, it had been discovered that there were
errors in Galens? description of the human anatomy. And it was thanks to one man that
criticism of Galens? works had begun.
Andreas Vesalius was not the typical physick of his day. ?Unlike the professors
before him, Vesalius did not stay seated high in his professorial cathedra. Instead,
Vesalius himself handled the body and dissected the organs.? He had the drive which
was needed to stimulate further advances in physiology. He had an unorthodox method
for gathering specimens for anatomizing. Grave-robbing, corpse scavenging, as morbid
as they may seem, they only went to show Vesalius? willingness and initiative to learn
and discover new things. This in turn would reveal the errors in Galens? work. Vesalius
had realized, ?that Galen?s ostensibly ?human? anatomy was really only a compendium
of statements about animals in general?. He displayed his findings during a public
anatomy at Bologna. He had set up two skeletons, one of an ape and one of a man to
show the mistake which Galen had made in reference to an appendage that extended
?from the vertebra to the hip…? which was only present in the ape.
Although Vesalius still held true to Galenic ideas and errors, he had in fact opened the
door for others after him to question and review Galens? writings.
Santorio Santorio was another individual who aided in the advancement of
physiology. He acknowledged the ancient physicians, ?he firmly founded his work on
theirs?, but nevertheless went about ?using his own experience to correct the medical
works of Hippocrates, Galen, Aristotle, and Avicennia.? Santorio had also ?struck a
death blow at ancient medicine? with his conversion of the ancient ?humors? to proper
quantities which were measurable.
Slowly but surely, anatomy and physiology slowly began to break free of their
bonds. Galen?s work was no longer ?perfect? and the study of human anatomy had
become open and accepted. Although, sadly enough, human ignorance still managed to
Marcello Malpigihi was truly one of the true first physicians. His studies and
works so great, that in an obituary letter, he was mentioned as ?The Incomparable
Malpighi?. His work with the microscope revealed many new and and unexplored
?vistas?. His experiments and studies covered the taste buds, the brain, the pigment layer
in the skin, the skin, the kidneys, the spleen, to mention a few. As well as studies on the
anatomy of various animals. What?s more, his work in studying these new areas are
equally astonishing. He was what had transpired from Vesalius? questioning of Galens
work. ?Marcello Malpighi was a great scientist whose work had no dogmatic unity.?
But with all this accomplished, in the eyes of the Church his works were ?of use to no
But it was too late for the Church and human ignorance. The seeds of progress
had been sown and were growing nicely. Anatomy and physiology were on their way.
They had broken the barriers of conformity, ignorance, and the unknown. Thanks to
many individuals throughout history, who with their courage, curiosity, drive and spirit
all helped to bring anatomy and physiology to a new level of understanding and to how
we know them today.