EXHIBITS: Lesson From the Anatomy Master

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Science  08 Aug 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5634, pp. 741
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5634.741a

Many historians consider the treatise De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) by 16th century Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius the most influential medical work ever. But few people could plow through all 663 pages of Vesalius's tangled Latin. Now medicos and scholars can read a friendly English translation of the classic's first volume, which covers bones and ligaments, at this site from two experts at Northwestern University in Illinois. They plan to post the Fabrica's other six volumes within about 2 years, producing the first complete translation of the work's two editions into English.

A champion of careful observation, Vesalius (1514–1564) helped modernize medicine and anatomy by insisting on meticulous dissection of human cadavers. The detailed woodcuts in his 1543 masterwork set the standard for future medical illustrations. Classicist Daniel Garrison and Malcolm Hast, professor emeritus of otolaryngology, have enhanced the illustrations to sharpen details and added copious annotations. Essays by Garrison and other experts put Vesalius and his work into historical context and dissect the book's themes.


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