Medicine in the Early Modern World
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Medicine in the Early Modern World. 1700 – The Present Day. By Mr Day Downloaded from Lesson Objectives. To understand what is meant by the term renaissance. To study and appreciate the importance of Andreas Vesalius to the field of anatomy. Goodbye Middle Ages!.

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Medicine in the Early Modern World

1700 – The Present Day

By Mr Day Downloaded from

Lesson objectives
Lesson Objectives

  • To understand what is meant by the term renaissance.

  • To study and appreciate the importance of Andreas Vesalius to the field of anatomy.

Goodbye middle ages
Goodbye Middle Ages!

  • The Middle Ages was a period of very slow growth and in many cases regression.

  • After the Middle Ages comes a period that is usually called the Renaissance.

  • What do you understand by the term Renaissance?


  • Literally means re-birth.

  • It was an intellectually challenging time when scholars pushed back boundaries in many fields.

  • People began to challenge what had previously written and passed down.

  • As well as medicine areas which were revolutionised included Art, Music and even Religion.

  • How would advances in Art help the development of Medicine?

Da vinci s drawing of a foetus
Da Vinci’s Drawing of a Foetus

To the right is a drawing of a foetus by Leonardo Da Vinci.

This was drawn after the careful dissection and observation of a women who died while pregnant.

The important thing to note is the stunning accuracy and detail.

Importance of individuals
Importance of Individuals.

  • As we have seen already one person can have a massive impact on the development of a branch of medicine.

  • We will come across many such individuals as we study the renaissance.

  • One such individual was Andreas Vesalius who specialised in anatomy, he can be seen on the right.

Before vesalius
Before Vesalius

  • Doctors believed they possessed all the knowledge that they needed to know.

  • They believed there was no need to learn more about anatomy by dissecting (cutting up) bodies.

After vesalius
After Vesalius

  • It was accepted that Galen was wrong concerning some important ideas of anatomy. (eg. Galen believed the human jaw consisted of two bones)

  • Vesalius strongly believed it was necessary to dissect human bodies to find out exactly how it worked.

  • He also insisted on testing Galen’s theories.

Drawings and diagrams
Drawings and Diagrams

Accurate sketches and drawings of the body were a crucial part of Vasalius’ work. Many of his books were illustrated and took understanding to new levels.

What to do next
What to do Next…

  • Look at the sheet on Vesalius.


  • Find and underline three developments or changes to medical thinking that Vesalius was responsible for.

  • Which one do you think was the most important and why?

  • Do you think any of Vasalius’ work would have been opposed? Explain your answer.

The fabric of the human body 1543
The Fabric of the Human Body 1543

  • As you should have gathered from the fact sheet Vasalius’ greatest contribution to medicine was his book The fabric of the Human Body.

  • It corrected some widely held errors.

  • It showed people how to study anatomy – complete with illustrations.

  • The pictures in the book formed a crucial link with the text, without them it would be unreadable.

  • Because the book was published its ideas spread throughout Europe although it’s wrong to think everybody welcomed the new ideas it contained.