human anatomy history

human anatomy history


The birth of biology: 5th - 4th century BC

The Greek philosophers, voracious in their curiosity, look with interest at the range of living creatures, from the humblest plant to man himself. A Greek name is coined by a German naturalist in the early 19th century for this study of all physical aspects of natural life - biology, from bios (life) and logos (word or discourse). It is a subject with clear subdivisions, such as botany, zoology or anatomy. But all are concerned with living organisms.The first man to make a significant contribution in biology is Alcmaeon, living in Crotona in the 5th century. Crotona is famous at the time for its Pythagorean scholars, but Alcmaeon seems not to have been of their school. Alcmaeon is the first scientist known to have practised dissection in his researches. His aim is not anatomical, for his interest lies in trying to find the whereabouts of human intelligence. But in the course of his researches he makes the first scientific discoveries in the field of anatomy.

The subsequent Greek theory, subscribed to even by Aristotle, is that the heart is the seat of intelligence. Alcmaeon reasons that since a blow to the head can affect the mind, in concussion, this must be where reason lies. In dissecting corpses to pursue this idea, he observes passages linking the brain with the eyes (the optic nerves) and the back of the mouth with the ears (Eustachian tubes
Human vivisection: c.300 BC

Early in the 3rd century BC two surgeons in Alexandria, Herophilus and Erasistratus, make the first scientific studies designed to discover the workings of human anatomy.

The cost of their contribution to science would be considered too high in modern times (they acquire much of their information from Human vivisection, the patients being convicted criminals). But Celsus, a Roman writer on medical history, energetically justifies the suffering of the criminals as providing 'remedies for...

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