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A MILESTONE ACHIEVEMENT FOR ANATOMY EDUCATION

From the earliest efforts of ancient Egyptians to distinguish individual organs, mankind has been fascinated with uncovering the secrets of the human body. The Exhibition provides millions of visitors around the world with unprecedented access to anatomical detail historically only available to medical professionals. BODIES…The Exhibition is a celebration of the beautiful and amazing intricacies of the human form.

BCE:

  • 1600-1550: Two ancient Egyptian papyri distinguish organs such as the heart, liver, spleen, kidney, uterus, and bladder as well as blood vessels. No doubt the practice of mummification left the Egyptians intimately familiar with some aspects of human anatomy.
  • c.500: The first recorded medical dissection of a human body is by the ancient Greek philosopher and medical theorist Alcmaeon of Croton who is credited with identifying the Eustachian tubes (auditory canals). He also classifies the brain as the seat of intellectual activity.
  • c.400: Hippocrates, founds the Asclepiades, a school of medicine. He is the author of the medical oath of ethics and the earliest medical scientist who has a significant amount of extant work which exhibits an understanding of the musculoskeletal structure and human organs.
  • c.384-322: The philosopher Aristotle distinguishes between arteries and veins. He relies on teaching anatomy through “paradigms, schemata and diagrams” as well as animal dissection rather than the use of human cadavers.
  • c.280: During the Ptolemaic era, cadaver dissection is allowed at the anatomy school in Alexandria on the coast of northern Africa. Herophilius of Chalcedon, a Greek physician and early “Father of Anatomy”, studies the nervous system, reproductive organs, and blood vessels. His work was complemented by Erasistratus of Chios, the leader of the school who revealed more about the cardiovascular system.

CE:

  • 30: The Roman physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus publishes De re medicina, or On Medicine, a collection of Greek medical writings featuring anatomy and surgeries.
  • 162: The Greek scientist Galen moves to Rome and becomes a physician at the imperial court. He gained valuable experience as the attending physician at a gladiator school and was known for his brain and eye surgeries. His works form the basis of medical knowledge through 13 centuries, due in large part to the ban on cadaver dissection in medieval Christendom.
  • 1489: Leonardo da Vinci begins creating a series of over 700 anatomical drawings. Although often relying on assumptions based on animal anatomy, da Vinci purportedly dissected dozens of cadavers to learn more about the inner workings of the human body.
  • 1522-1523: Jacopo Berengario da Carpi publishes Isagogae breves per lucide ac uberrime in Anatomiam humani corporis, the first detailed anatomic description of the human body in a series of illustrations.
  • 1543: Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica, or On the Workings of the Human Body, features elaborate and accurate drawings of the dissected human body. This tome marks the beginning of modern anatomy and emphasizes the importance of dissection.
  • 1562: Gabriele Fallopio describes the anatomy of several reproductive organs, in particular the uterine tubes today commonly called the “Fallopian” tubes.
  • 1628: William Harvey writes Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus or The Anatomical Function of the Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals in which he correctly explains the circulatory system.
  • 1632: The painting Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, by Rembrandt, demonstrates the intimate connection between artists and anatomists as well as the atmosphere of conviviality surrounding anatomy lessons in the 17th century.
  • 1661: The microscope begins to play a key role in the study of anatomy after Marcello Malpighi, the “Father of Microscopic Anatomy”, uses it to discover capillaries.
  • 1664: Thomas Willis gives the first complete description of the anatomy of the brain.
  • 1718: The German surgeon Lorenz Heister publishes a treatise on surgery that becomes the standard text on the subject.
  • 1752: Rene de Reaumur shows the role of gastric juices in digestion.
  • 1771: The founder of pathologic anatomy, Giovanni Battista Morgagni, dies. He was known for his extensive and meticulous post-mortem examinations. In this same year, William Hewson details his research on blood coagulation.
  • 1774: London’s leading obstetrician, William Hunter, publishes a definitive work on the reproductive system.
  • 1832: As the interest in anatomy grows, England passes the Anatomy Act to offer an adequate and legitimate supply of bodies and prevent body-snatching, grave-robbing, and murdering as means of providing anatomists with cadavers.
  • 1833: Jan Evangelista Purkinje discovers sweat glands. He would later discover the neurons in the cortex of the cerebellum and conducting fibers in the heart. He is also credited with the first system of classifying fingerprints and use of the word “protoplasm”.
  • 1839: Theodor Schwann and Matthias Jakob Schleiden correctly articulate the cell theory, stating that the cell is the general unit of all life.
  • 1855: Claude Bernard describes what become known as hormones: special substances liberated by organs into the tissue fluids which assist in maintaining the constancy of the internal environment.
  • 1858: Henry Gray’s Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical is first published. It soon becomes the foremost anatomical reference text and its descendant is still widely used today.
  • 1887: The National Institutes of Health is established in the USA.
  • 1891: Heinrich Wilhelm Gottfried von Waldeyer proposes the neuron theory of the nervous system. He uses the term “neuron” to describe the nervous cells, or basic structural unit of the nervous system.
  • 1895: Wilhelm Roentgen demonstrates his new invention, the x-ray, on his wife’s left hand at his lab in Wurzburg, Germany.
  • 1897: Sir Charles Sherrington coins the term “synapse” to describe functional contact between nerve cells.
  • 1921: John Newport Langley gives a detailed description of the structure and function of the autonomic nervous system.
  • 1952: Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on magnetic resonance phenomenon, leading to the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI.
  • 1953: James Watson and Francis Crick discover the molecular structure of DNA.
  • 1967: Although his patient would die less than three weeks after the procedure, South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard’s heart transplant procedure is considered the world’s first successful one.
  • 1972: Raymond Damadian demonstrates an MRI of the whole body. In the same year, British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield and South African physicist Allan Cormack invent the technique known as Computer Assisted Tomography, or the CAT scan.
  • 1986: Work on the Visible Human Project begins with the goal of creating complete, anatomically detailed, 3-D representations of the normal male and female body.
  • 2003: The Human Genome Project is successful in identifying the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA and in determining the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that comprise it.
 


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