interpretations can become erroneous, especially incases where no original written documentation isavailable or where the picture is analysed out of itshistorical context. One such example is a woodcut inFabricius Hildanus’ description of a novel way toapply a seton in the neck, which was later misread by an author of
History of Neurological Surgery
, 1951edition, as a method of reduction of cervicaldislocation.
There are extensive ancient Egyptian and Greek manuscripts that contain fascinating textual descrip-tions of neuroanatomy including
from 3500 BCE,
of the Greek poetHomer and writings of Hippocrates, Herophilus, andGalen, which are beyond the scope of this article andhave been covered thoroughly in the literature.
After the Greek period of medicine, the centres of intellectual enquiry moved to the Islamic cultures,where it remained inﬂuential from 750 to 1200 CE.Physicians, including Avicenna (980–1037 CE),made major contributions to the body of knowledgeabout neuroscience in this period. Fig. 1 is awatercolour drawing of the nervous system takenfrom the legendary book
Al-Qanun Fi Al-Tibb
TheCanons of Medicine
) by Avicenna known as the‘Second Doctor’ (the ﬁrst being Aristotle). Theﬁgure is viewed from the back, with the headhyper-extended so that the mouth is at the top of the page. Different colours were used to representpairs of nerves. The spine is drawn in continuity withthe brain stem where some cranial nerves emergefrom it. The spine has been numbered into eightcervical, 12 thoracic, ﬁve lumbar and four sacralsegments. Some ﬁbres from the cervical segments areshown to cross each other at the level of brachialplexus.Avicenna systematically reviewed the medicalknowledge by the previous scientists and comple-mented them by his own ﬁndings. Chapters 6–13 of
are designated to spinal anatomy andits biomechanical aspects.
On a personal level,Avicenna was a gifted child born in the Persian villageof Afshama, who was a practicing physician at the ageof 20. In addition to
, he demands credit forhis encyclopaedia of philosophy,
, meaninghealing. His choice of names for these two books,
(law), for a medical text book, and
(healing) for a philosophical one, is intriguing.A very similar drawing can be seen in
The Anatomy of the Human Body (Tashrih-i badan-i insane
) by Mansur Ibn Muhammad Ilyas (14th century),another Persian physician, suggesting this may havebeen a common method of illustrating neuroanatomy at the time (Fig. 2). This book has ﬁve colouredillustrations of skeleton, muscles, intestine, bloodvessels and nerves. Through the latter he describesthe anatomy of the spinal cord and nerves.
Neuroanatomy in Renaissance Art
In Europe, the Renaissance heralded the blossomingof medicine and art. Leonardo da Vinci (1452– 1519), who created 190 pages of drawings andwritings devoted to anatomy, was particularly fasci-nated with the nervous system. Born in the Italianvillage of Vinci, he was an illegitimate son of SerPiero d’Antonio, a notary, and a peasant womannamed Caterina. He produced over 5000 knownleaves of notebooks decorated with detailed directobservational drawings ranging from mechanics toanatomy, some written in his characteristic reversedscript or ‘mirror writing’.He made many contributions to neurosciences,including the discovery of neuroanatomical struc-tures such as meningeal arteries and frontal si-nuses.
He injected hot wax into the brain of anox and produced a cast of the ventricles. Thisrepresented the ﬁrst attempt at using a solidifyingmedium to determine the structure of an internalbody organ (Fig. 3).Leonardo’s thoughts on ventricles were inﬂuencedby previous physicians, such as Mondino, Avicenna
. 1. Study of the nervous system, from Avicenna’s 11th century treatise
Canons of Medicine, al-Qanun Fi Al-Tibb,
Folio 123 verso
Published in Isfehan, Iran 1632, Wellcome Library, London.L0013312.
F. Geranmayeh & K. Ashkan
D o w nl o ad ed B y : [ Ki n g ' s C oll e g e L o nd o n] A t : 1 4 : 3 8 1 8 S e p t e mb e r 2 0 0 8