Andreas Vesalius: The Founder of the Modern Study of the Human Anatomy

By Phin Upham

Anyone who studies the human anatomy can thank Andreas Vesalius for his extensive contributions to the topic. He was one of the leading thinkers throughout the Scientific Revolution most known for his emphasis on human anatomy. As far as medical science goes, he was the first to explore the importance of the human anatomy through experimentation. In some ways, he might be considered the grandfather of the autopsy, as he was noted for his desire to analyze actual corpses.

Vesalius was quite controversial for his time. Born in 1514 in Brussels, Belgium, his father learned the trade of an apothecary and served King Charles V of Spain. He worked towards a doctorate, earning a professor’s position for surgery and anatomy at Padua in 1538.

A year later, he’d publish a sheet detailing how veins drew blood from the sides of the body. This study would ultimately lead William Harvye to discover the principles behind the circulation of blood.

His study of the human anatomy was spurred on by his theories on the Greek physician Galen. Vesalius correctly believed that Galen’s observations were more like assumptions. Galen had studied animal anatomy extensively, mostly through the dissection of apes, so his observations didn’t apply to the human body.

Fortunately for Vesalius, going against the Church’s doctrine had no lasting effects on his life. He went on to become a successful surgeon, and was rumored to have been offered a chair at Padua before his passing. Reports from the time period suggest differences over his death, so it’s unclear whether he would have accepted the title.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Facebook page.