History of anatomy2veins, and the relations between organs are described more accurately than in previous works.The first use of human cadavers for anatomical research occurred later in the 4th century BCE when Herophilos andErasistratus gained permission to perform live dissections, or vivisection, on criminals in Alexandria under theauspices of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Herophilos in particular developed a body of anatomical knowledge much moreinformed by the actual structure of the human body than previous works had been.
The final major anatomist of ancient times was Galen, active in the 2nd century. He compiled much of theknowledge obtained by previous writers, and furthered the inquiry into the function of organs by performingvivisection on animals. Due to a lack of readily available human specimens, discoveries through animal dissectionwere broadly applied to human anatomy as well. His collection of drawings, based mostly on dog anatomy, became
anatomy textbook for 1500 years. The original text is long gone, and his work was only known to theRenaissance doctors through the careful custody of Arabic medicine.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the study of anatomy became stagnant in Christian Europe but flourished in themedieval Islamic world, where Muslim physicians and Muslim scientists contributed heavily to medieval learningand culture. The Persian physician Avicenna (980-1037) absorbed the Galenic teachings on anatomy and expandedon them in
The Canon of Medicine
(1020s), which was very influential throughout the Islamic world and ChristianEurope.
remained the most authoritative book on anatomy in the Islamic world until Ibn al-Nafis in the13th century, though the book continued to dominate European medical education for even longer until the 16thcentury.The Arabian physician Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) (1091
1161) was the first physician known to have carried out humandissections and postmortem autopsy. He proved that the skin disease scabies was caused by a parasite, a discoverywhich upset the theory of humorism supported by Hippocrates and Galen. The removal of the parasite from thepatient's body did not involve purging, bleeding, or any other traditional treatments associated with the fourhumours.
In the 12th century, Saladin's physician Ibn Jumay was also one of the first to undertake humandissections, and he made an explicit appeal for other physicians to do so as well. During a famine in Egypt in 1200,Abd-el-latif observed and examined a large number of skeletons, and he discovered that Galen was incorrectregarding the formation of the bones of the lower jaw and sacrum.
The Arabian physician Ibn al-Nafis (1213
1288) was one of the earliest proponents of human dissection andpostmortem autopsy, and in 1242, he was the first to describe the pulmonary circulation
and coronary circulation
of the blood, which form the basis of the circulatory system, for which he is considered the father of the theory of circulation.
Ibn al-Nafis also described the earliest concept of metabolism,
and developed new systems of anatomy and physiology to replace the Avicennian and Galenic doctrines, while discrediting many of their erroneoustheories on the four humours, pulsation,
bones, muscles, intestines, sensory organs, bilious canals, esophagus,stomach, and the anatomy of almost every other part of the human body.