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Andreas Vesalius

Scientist / Anatomist

Born: 31 December 1514
Died: 15 October 1564
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Best known as: 16th-century Belgian anatomist who wrote The Structure of the Human Body
The Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius was among the first to dissect cadavers and accurately depict human anatomy. He studied in Louvain and Paris, but spent much of his career in Italy, lecturing in Padua, Basel, Pisa and Bologna. His seven-volume text De Humani Corporis Fabrica (The Structure of the Human Body), published in 1543, began the modern science of anatomy. His descriptions and the skilled illustrations of Jan Stephen van Calcar (once a student with Titian) overturned medical traditions based on the 2nd-century theories of Galen. The furor caused by his books led Vesalius to give up research and accept a position as royal physician to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (and, later, to his son Philip II of Spain). The Inquisition condemned Vesalius to death for dissecting a human body, but his connections to royalty helped knock the sentence down to a forced pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1564. On his return voyage his ship was damaged at sea and he died near Zante (Zakynthos), off the coast of Greece.
Extra credit: One of the famous stories about Vesalius is that he proved men and women have the same number of ribs, heresy to those who believed the Old Testament story of Eve being created from one of Adam's ribs.

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