Andreas Vesalius

Andreas Vesalius was a Flemish anatomist and physician. He is considered as the founder of modern human anatomy.

Early life

Andreas Vesalius was born on 31 December 1514, in Brussels, Belgium. He was the son of Andries van Wesele and his wife, Isabel Crabbe. His ancestors were mostly prominent physicians and pharmacists. While still a boy Vesalius showed great interest in the dissection of animals.


In 1528 Vesalius entered the University of Leuven where he was studying arts, but when his father was appointed as the Valet de Chambre in 1532, he decided to pursue a career in medicine at the University of Paris, where he moved in 1533. In 1536 he left Paris and returned to Leuven. He graduated the next year. After that he moved to the University of Padua in Italy to study for his doctorate.


After graduating from University Vesalius became very interested in human anatomy. He knew that if he wants to study anatomy he has to dissect real human corpses, which was in his time banned by the Catholic Church. He spent the next several years studying human anatomy until he was ready to publish a book based on his research.

Vesalius’ most important accomplishment was a book about human anatomy called “De Humani Commis Fabrica” (“the structure of the human body”). The book was published in 1543, and it is the reason why he is considered a father of human anatomy today. It had over 200 different anatomical drawings.

Vesalius proved that men and women have the same number of ribs, opposed to what the Church believed based on the Old Testament story of Eve being created from one of Adam’s ribs.

Later life

In 1564 he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After visiting Jerusalem, he struggled for many days with the adverse winds in the Ionian Sea. His ship wrecked on the island of Zakynthos, Greece. Vesalius died in Zakynthos on October 15th 1564. He was nearly 50 years old.

Andreas Vesalius quotes

  • “I am not accustomed to saying anything with certainty after only one or two observations. ”
  • “It was when the more fashionable doctors in Italy, in imitation of the old Romans, despising the work of the hand, began to delegate to slaves the manual attentions they deemed necessary for their patients … that the art of medicine went to ruin.”

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