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Chapter 2—A Slice and Dice Professor, a Man who wasn’t Shakespeare, and another under House Arrest
…the Scientific Revolution took place in Europe, not in the Muslim lands, India, or China. There were two chief reasons for this. . .During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Europe spawned the autonomous university. . . where scholars were usually free to dispute as they saw fit. . ..Into this archipelago of intellectual liberty after 1450 came information from all over the world. . .the Scientific Revolution in general required the combination of a political landscape that gave protected space to thinkers and broader circumstances that favored the long-distance flow of ideas and information. J.R. McNeill & William McNeill, The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History [Norton, page 187] When I undertake the dissection of a human cadaver I pass a stout rope tied like a noose beneath the lower jaw and through the two zygomas [bony arches on the side of the head] up to the top of the head. . .The longer end of the noose I run through a pulley fixed to a beam in the room so that I may raise or lower the cadaver as it hangs there or may turn it round in any direction to suit my purpose; and should I so wish I can allow it to recline at an angle upon a table. . . Andreas Vesalius, De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1541) Book II, Ch, 24. Trans. William Frank Richardson.
Andreas Vesalius, a medical student at the prestigious University of Paris, can’t resist making a sarcastic comment about his anatomy professor, “I would not mind having as many cuts inflicted on me as I have seen him make either on man or brute (except at the banqueting table).” It is 1534 and the professor isn’t dissecting, he is teaching the way everyone else does: from old books. Medical students in 16th century Europe don’t learn by studying actual human bodies. And no one cuts into a cadaver. To understand how the heart and organs and
is thought to be in the great works of the past. . animals. and pass an examination on all of that.Joyhakim. and more.the world of nature. A busy lawyer. Pliny seems to have spare time. that serves as a model for most such great works to come. and builds the Coliseum). As It Happened muscles work. an encyclopedia of plants. Wisdom and guidance. copyright 2010. The idea of science as verifiable exploration is yet to be born. Pliny says: “My subject is. minerals. metals. balances the budget. (Human dissections were forbidden in ancient Rome.” 2 . insects. whether philosophical or practical. and a 31volume Natural History (Naturalis Historiae). He writes a 20-volume History of the German Wars. as well as a military commander. Galen (Claudius Galenus) and Pliny the Elder are superstar thinkers who command awe and respect. For those interested in medicine or life itself. or in other words Life. who got his information by dissecting monkeys and other animals. Pliny is born in 23 CE during the reign of the Roman emperor Vespasian (who conquers Judaea.) Learning from the ancients is what you do in the 16th century in Europe’s burgeoning universities. doctors-to-be study the writings of the 2nd century Roman physician Galen. .
where he is personal physician to several emperors and writes books and treatises on anatomy. Fifty years later (in the year 129). age 57. Pliny. wanting to see the phenomenon for himself and also rescue a friend. As It Happened On August 25. He gets a solid education. leaving a heroic image behind. copyright 2010. climbs aboard a fast-sailing galley. adding their own insights. travels widely. Galen is born into a prominent Greek family in Pergamon (today’s Bergama.Turkey). Ash begins falling on Pompeii. translate. His descriptions of the muscular system and the spinal cord are pioneering. lands on the Italian coast. Arabic speakers study. For centuries (about 15) no one in Europe matches him as a medical thinker. Mount Vesuvius erupts. and-here the story gets cloudy—somehow dies in Stabiae.Joyhakim. and then settles into a scholarly life in Rome. One reason for that: when the western half of the Roman Empire falls (in 476) much of Europe’s intellectual life is put on hold. About the year 1000. 79 CE. Herculaneum. and teach the work of the Greeks and the Romans. and the elegant resort town of Stabiae. The scholarly scene shifts east. Ibn 3 . or as an observer of bodily processes and their complexities.
writes a seminal work (the Book of Optics) that rejects the accepted idea that light is emitted from the eyes and says that light is reflected. Italy. but frozen-in-time 4 . those brilliant. or with Islamic scholars in Spain. He writes this while under house arrest for not being able to control the Nile’s flooding. In 1453. copyright 2010. refracted. Those professors begin translating ancient texts: some. By 1500. Works that focus on the natural world are especially popular. for century after century. Europe has more than 100 universities. now make it back to Latin. and Aristotle become academic deities. And there they stay. Constantinople falls. or in Sicily. Some of the professors have studied in Constantinople (now Istanbul). Galen. who has moved from Persia (today’s Iran) to Egypt. Alhazen. thereby disappointing Egypt’s ruler. the world’s first degree-granting university is established in Bologna. As It Happened al-Haytham (known as Alhazen) makes the point that science must be based on observation. In 1088. and perceived by the eye. originally written in Greek or Latin. then translated into Arabic.Joyhakim. Since no one is thinking in terms of serious experimentation or scientific methodology. almost every major city claims one. Pliny. not abstract thinking.
Vesalius (who comes from a family of Belgian doctors and cuts up mice as a kid) decides to check Galen’s findings. to get a doctorate. After that the peripatetic (he does a lot of roaming) young scholar goes to the University of Padua. In 1536. war breaks out between France and the Holy Roman Empire.Joyhakim. they ask him to slice into a human body and explain its parts to them. it is done by hired hands. While he is there he does the first public dissection recorded at that university in 18 years. Renaissance artists are not only creating groundbreaking 5 . In 16th century medical schools.) When some teachers and students hear what Vesalius is doing. As It Happened ancients. copyright 2010. If there is cutting. but not usually forbidden. in northern Italy. Vesalius leaves Paris and heads home. Italy is at the center of one of history’s great inventive moments. are rarely questioned. It is a good move. (Human dissections are frowned on. And he does. He scrounges bodies from cemetery keepers and hangmen and cuts into human corpses. He completes work for his degree at the University of Leuven (Louvain). while the professor reads from Galen. Galen’s 2nd century guesses on anatomy dominate curricula.
The artists are way ahead of the doctors.Joyhakim. In 1537. What he sees often contradicts Galen’s words. Aristotle in particular. (We actually have three. Here is what Vesalius writes. As It Happened works of art. so does a human’s. “Galen was deluded by his dissection of ox brains and described the cerebral vessels. . Vesalius 6 . The great German printmaker Albrecht Durer. writes books on geometry and human proportions. . His classes are jammed.) Studying real bodies. and quite few others. and Leonardo da Vinci. . and Vesalius knows it. Vesalius gets his doctorate in medicine at Padua and stays as a Professor of Surgery.” Galen had assumed (and for more than a thousand years doctors believed) that because the ape’s sternum (breastbone) has seven parts.Galen never inspected a human uterus. at age 23. thought that the nerves took origin from the heart. who use mathematics and the laws of perspective to take their work in new directions. He is part of a generation that includes Michelangelo Buonarroti. studying at Padua in 1495. A judge gives him cadavers of executed criminals. not of a human but of oxen. Vesalius cuts while students and others watch. Andrea Mantegna. they are basing much of that art on detailed studies of the human body. copyright 2010. .
in London. Bacon can see the foolishness of deducing science from antique writings rather than from observation and experimentation. In 1543 Vesalius publishes his masterpiece: De humani corporis fabrica (On the Structure of he Human Body). Copernicus’s great work on astronomy is also published. takes this hit from Cambridge educated playwright 7 . As It Happened overturns accepted anatomy and lays a foundation for a new scientific method.” about to be born. copyright 2010. one based on observation. he commissions professional artists to do detailed anatomical drawings. Vesalius makes charts and drawings for his students to study as they watch his dissections. A few decades later. newly arrived on the London scene in 1592. A country boy. and some terrific writing compete with traditional inertia and snobbery. great theater. A perfectionist. That same year. The artists Vesalius hires come from Titian’s studio: they turn out works of art as well as landmarks in medical history.Joyhakim. these two books are often seen as underpinnings for a “Scientific Revolution. it is a life-changing experience. Francis Bacon (15611626) reads Vesalius’s book. This is prosperous Elizabethan England and London is a freewheeling place where new ideas.
but he does have influence in her court. The whisperers say he is Queen Elizabeth’s son. which often brings him grief and ridicule. Later Bacon will be convicted of taking 8 . . As It Happened Robert Greene: “There is an upstart Crow. he manages to create big enemies and passionate devotees. he manages to think freely.” The idea that the 'Upstart Crow. that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Players’s hide. Given a keen analytical mind and little patience with those less gifted.Joyhakim. A university graduate born into the establishment.' William Shakespeare. beautified with our feathers. can write as well as a scholar is laughable to Greene and his university friends. but he does write well. King James I (whose reign follows Queen Elizabeth’s) knights Bacon in 1603 (he becomes Sir Francis Bacon). . copyright 2010. Francis Bacon doesn’t write Shakespeare’s plays. it must be the articulate Bacon who is writing them under a pseudonym. Many think the crow couldn’t possibly have written his own plays. in 1613 he is named Attorney General. and then Lord High Chancellor in 1618. Bacon is in and out of royal favor with yoyo-like rhythm. it isn’t true. supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you.
After studying sailor’s maps he sees similarities between the coasts of Africa and South America. .Joyhakim.” he writes in Novum Organum. We make. . The New Atlantis.their fruit greater and 9 . Extending that grand design in Novum Organum (The New Organon). he bemoans the mindlessness of most academics of his day. It’s the bees he lauds. Bacon describes a great research institution dedicated to the study of nature and the invention of things “of use and practice. copyright 2010.trees and flowers to come earlier or later than their seasons. which is the year some Pilgrims make it to Massachusetts. As It Happened bribes. . who find their resources in nature and make something useful from them. Bacon’s intent is to summarize all human knowledge and to explain what can be done with it. comparing them to ants. “This is no mere accidental occurrence. Seven years later. But it is his ideas and writings that make him still famous in our time. He lays out those ideas in Instauratio Magma (The Great Instauration) in 1620.” creating a model for institutions to come. Here is some of what he suggests scientific collaboration might bring: We make. in a novel. It’s an attempt to show how experimental science could take root. . and to come up and bear more speedily than by their natural course they do.
We have also parks and enclosures of all sorts of beasts and birds. Bacon makes an eloquent case for observation and experimentation. are all the result of unpredictable direct intervention by God. but if. floods. so the idea that nature has laws makes sense to him. which we use not only for view or rareness. but likewise for dissections and trials. Galileo is doing what we now think of as real science. and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world. is searching for those laws. famine. instead of doing so. . He ties his observations to mathematical measurements. In 1610. and stomachaches. As It Happened sweeter. they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about. writing: "Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed. Galileo puts his eye to a telescope and points it at the heavens. While Bacon is philosophizing his contemporary at the University of Padua. they had consulted experience and observation. drought. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). It doesn’t to most of his contemporaries who have been taught that comets. . ." Laws govern the material world? Bacon is a lawyer.Joyhakim. Both Galileo and Bacon need courage to advance their big ideas: that nature can be understood through 10 . . copyright 2010.
For many. and that there is a unity in all of life. fear anything that seems impractical or idealistic. As It Happened observation and experimentation. scientific thinking will be too much for some authorities. and Puritans. who lost his life by trying an experiment about the burning of Mount Vesuvius. Bacon is no small thinker. When he realizes he isn’t going to recover. he writes a letter about his impending demise. who are urging political change. that the natural world changes over time. that leads to research and analysis. He won’t see that day. Here are his words: "My very good Lord—I was likely to have had the fortune of Pliny the Elder. influenced by Bacon. the tools of science. religious and academic. to acknowledge.Joyhakim. his goal is the “effecting of all things possible. it’s easier to live with mysterious forces than to delve into analytical challenges. will get to that in the 18th century)—well. So Bacon’s ideas wait for a new king. copyright 2010. In 1626. Bacon gets a chill. while freezing a chicken to observe if cold preserves meat. And they demand thinking. Again and again. for I was 11 . In Bacon’s day the traditionalists (the Royalists) find almost any change scary.” If a lightning bolt can be explained as a phenomenon of nature (Ben Franklin.
Asia Division.Joyhakim.” Bernard is right.he did not understand at all the mechanism of the experimental method. . . In Britain. which takes place in 1536 at a scaffold in front of what is now Waterloo Barracks at the Tower of London. a great French scientist who helps bring the scientific method to medical practice. 12 . Worse than that: Anne Boleyn is intelligent with strong ideas on politics. So there is nothing to do but chop her head off. Claude Bernard. ] Illustration and caption?: Li Shizhen (1518-1593) Chinese Naturalist. it succeeded excellently well. has given birth to a daughter. As It Happened also desirous to try an experiment or two touching the conservation and induration of bodies. . . . . Henry VIII gains control of the Church of England (kicking out the Roman Catholic Church). will write of Bacon: “[He] understood and foresaw well the importance of experiment for the future of the sciences. in 1534. As for the experiment itself. and a peasant revolt in the Netherlands. there is civil war in Denmark. but she hasn’t produced a boy. But Bacon achieved what he set out to do: to reinvent the way we consider the world about us. She wears an ermine cloak and a red petticoat for the event. His wife of the moment. Maybe it was the 16th century winds.” Three centuries later. copyright 2010. Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth. show page from his Bencao gangmu (1586) available from LOC.However. Sidebar near Vesalius material: Vesalius’s student years span a messy time in Europe: Martin Luther is in his prime. or a confluence of stars.
without the balance of new learning. and recipes too. medical drugs. in De Humani Corporis Favrica. where 13 . leads cultures to decline and pessimism. drawn in 1543. That very year Copernicus dies and his masterwork De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium is published. 1624. page 21. analyses of illnesses. They agree that the active pursuit of the arts and sciences will bring progress as well as intellectual excitement. Illustration (Impt info here): Vesalius’s picture of the cerebral cortex. So 1543 is a landmark year. and Shakespeare are among those who do what the alchemists can’t manage. (Where we say “science. the poet John Donne. still widely known and revered in much of Asia. Bacon. bearing the date September 23. it was a time for encyclopedic thinking. Li Shizhen (pronounced: lee sher jen) spent much of his life compiling and writing a great compendium on animals. Vesalius begins an adventure inward that will lead to the decoding of the human genome and other 21st century astonishments.” Bacon and his peers said “natural philosophy. and rusty too. Introduction a l’Etude de la Médecine Expérimentale.Joyhakim. Galileo may have been first to clearly state that the laws of nature are mathematical. GALILEO GALILEI: DESCRIPTION OF THE MICROSCOPE (1624) The letter.” writes Bacon’s contemporary. poems. copyright 2010.) Claude Bernard quote—1865—pp 89.” Adoption of the word “scientist “ will help change the profession in the 19th century. plants. they turn that rusty iron to gold. Joseph Fruton. Margin: “Our age is iron. Donne. perfected his microscope in 1624. cited in A Skeptical Biochemist. Galileo. was written from Bellosguardo. Copernicus initiates a journey outward into the heavens which brings deep understandings of the universe. along with stories. It’s a great work.” “Science” then meant “wisdom” or “learning. In China. As It Happened whatever. Bacon believes an obsession with the past. and suggestions for doctors.
so that the object is very well lit. of which I request you to notify me of the most curious things. including the works of Aristotle. It contains the most detailed description of the microscope to be found in the writings of Galileo. Jābir ibn Hayyān. and during the Reconquista and the Crusades. and how subtly she works. In fact. Florence 1968. and better in sunlight itself. Florence. copyright 2010. Ptolemy. alKhwarizmi. to be guided as we wish. edited by A. in G. European university put many works about the natural world and the study of nature at the center of its curriculum. The object is attached to the mobile circle. The contact with the Islamic world in Spain and Sicily. which I hope will afford you much pleasure and entertainment. and can be lengthened or shortened as desired.Joyhakim. and even upside down. Favaro.. I have contemplated a great many tiny animals with infinite admiration. Background From Wikipedia: An intellectual revitalization of Europe started with the birth of medieval universities in the 12th century. [. Opere [Works]. The European universities aided materially in the translation and propagation of these texts and started a new infrastructure which was needed for scientific communities. and so the tube has been made mobile in its foot. and is moved about so as to see all of it. according to whether one is looking at this or that part. As It Happened the scientist lived from 1617 to 1631. pp. concluding with some "naturalist" observations. allowed Europeans access to scientific Greek and Arabic texts. Later translators like Michael Scotus would learn Arabic in order to study these texts directly.] The body tube is in 2 pieces. XIII. since what is seen at one look is only a small part. and Averroes. Alhazen. But Your Excellency will have occasion to observe thousands and thousands of details. I delayed in sending it because I had not yet brought it to perfection. to look at objects in relief it must be possible to bring the glass closer or further away.. the mosquito and the moth are beautiful. which is in the base. And because the distance between the lens and the object must be very precise. Letter from Galileo Galilei to Federico Cesi. as has been the case with myself. having had difficulty in finding a way of grinding the lenses perfectly. September 23. vol. In brief. European scholars had access to the translation programs of Raymond of Toledo. with the result 14 . Avicenna. Among them the flea is most horrible. It must also be used in very calm. 208-209. Galilei. It discusses the problems of lighting the objects to be observed and the mode of adjusting the focus. one can contemplate infinitely the grandeur of nature. and with what indescribable diligence. and with great satisfaction I have seen how it is that flies and other tiny creatures can walk attached to mirrors. bright air. Most Illustrious and Excellent Lord and Patron I am sending Your Excellency an "occhialino" to see the tiniest things close up. who sponsored the 12th century Toledo School of Translators from Arabic to Latin. national ed. 1624.
copyright 2010. As It Happened that the "medieval university laid far greater emphasis on science than does its modern counterpart and descendent." 15 .Joyhakim.
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