|Vesalius, Andreas (1514-1564)|
| Belgian physician who revolutionized
anatomy. His great innovations were to perform postmortem dissections and
to make use of illustrations in teaching anatomy.
The dissections (then illegal) enabled him to discover that Galen's system of medicine was based on fundamental anatomical errors. Vesalius's book De humani corporis fabrica/On the Structure of the Human Body 1543, together with the main work of astronomer Copernicus, published in the same year, marked the dawn of modern science.
Vesalius was born in Brussels and studied at Louvain, Paris, and Padua in Italy, where he was professor 1537-42. He became court physician to Charles V, and later to his son Philip II of Spain. On his way back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Vesalius died in a shipwreck off Greece.
Dissatisfied with the instruction he had received, Vesalius resolved to make his own observations, which disagreed with Galen's. For instance, he disproved that men had a rib less than women - a belief that had been widely held until then.
He also believed, contrary to Aristotle's theory of the heart being the centre of the mind and emotion, that the brain and the nervous system are the centre.
Between 1539 and 1542 Vesalius prepared his masterpiece, a book that employed talented artists to provide the anatomical illustrations.