"Gray's Anatomy" remains the most popular medical text ever written and is still in print.
Physicians during the eighteenth century continued to depend upon artists for their training in anatomy (while the debate of whether these representations were art or medicine raged).
It was in the seventeenth century that modern medicine began with the publication of Sir William Harvey's classic text Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis. He introduced the scientific method, and medicine had finally and forever ascended from the Dark Ages.
The first true great anatomic illustrations were by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who was an acclaimed inventor, engineer, and architect prior to his achieving fame as an artist. Illustrations that follow from "De humani corporis fabrica libri septem" by Andreas Vesalius mark the beginning of modern medicine since they are the result of independent investigation.
The first to investigate anatomy through dissection was Mondino de Cuzzi (1275-1326) of Bolognia when he dissected a human cadaver in about 1315, this famous lesson now a landmark in the history of medicine.
Artists were interested in the anatomy of the kidneys well before physicians understood the pathophysiology of any of these conditions.
Artists eager to create representations of the human body employed many different varieties of media, including bronze, ivory, wax, and paper-mache (meaning chewed paper). Ecorché statuettes, or flayed anatomic models, were popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries while beautiful eighteenth century wax models can still be seen on display at the Specola Museum in Florence, Italy.
"Whenever you shall be so unhappy as to fail in your Endeavours to relieve; let it be you constant Aim to convert particular Misfortunes into general Blessings, by carefully inspecting the Bodies of the Dead, inquiring into the Causes of their Diseases, and thence improving your own Knowledge, and making further and useful Discoveries in the healing Art."
A Discourse upon the Duties of a Physician by Samuel Bard, MD (1769)
It was well into the twelfth century before anatomy became a legitimate part of the study of medicine. Many countries had political and religious laws restricting the use of human specimens for study. Cadavers for dissection were difficult to come by and preservation was inadequate, so it was through medical illustration that anatomy could first be publicly taught. Since most medical careers begin at the dissecting table, it is appropriate to open this web site with the study of anatomy.
(Chapter Sections below, additional Pictures left)