visit catalog of the scientific community

Catalog of the Scientific Community
Vesalius, Andreas

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer
email on genealogical questions.

1. Dates
     Born: Brussels, 31 December 1514
     Died: Zakinthos, 15 October 1564
     Dateinfo: Dates Certain
     Lifespan: 50

2. Father
     Occupation: Government Official

     His father was an apothecary to Emperor Maximillian and then his son
     Charles V. He became a constant attendent to Charles, a valet de
     chambre. The father was the illegitimate son of Everart van Wesele,
     physician to the Emperor. His great-grandfather served Frederick III
     and was granted the heraldic device of three weasels. Vesalius came
     from a long line of physicians who were in royal service.

     No information on financial status.

3. Nationality
     Birth: Belgian Area
     Career: Italian, Spanish, German, Belgian Area
     Death: European Culture

4. Education
     Schooling: Louvain; Paris; Padua, M.D.

     Vesalius took his elementary studies in Brussels most likely at the
     school of the Brothers of the Common Life. He matriculated at the
     University of Louvain in 1530 to pursue an arts curriculum. It is
     unknown when he decided to study medicine, possibly after 1531 when the
     Emperor legitimized his father in consideration of his continual
     service as valet de chambre.

     Vesalius commenced his medical schooling at the University of Paris two
     years later. He left Paris in 1536 because of the war between France
     and the Holy Roman Empire. He returned to Louvain and with the support
     of the Burgomuster he was able to reintroduce anatomical dissection at
     the school. He received his bachelor's in medicine the following year.

     In the same year, he enrolled in the medical school of the University
     of Padua. With his previous work at Louvain and Paris it was only
     months before Vesalius passed his exams and received his doctor in
     medicine. I assume a B.A. or its equivalent.

5. Religion
     Affiliation: Catholic

6. Scientific Disciplines
     Primary: Anatomy, Medicine, Physiology
     Subordinate: Pharmacology

     At Paris Vesalius studied medicine in the Galenic tradition under
     Sylvius, Jean Ferne, and at Louvain under Guinter of Andernach. He
     acquired great skill in dissection but remained under the influence of
     the Galenic concepts of anatomy. Immediately after his graduation from
     Padua he began lecturing on surgery and anatomy. Unlike many other
     lecturers of the time, Vesalius insisted on carrying out his own
     dissections for his classes. He produced for the aid of his students
     four large anatomical charts. After one of them was plagiarized and
     published, he printed the remaining three charts with three views of
     the skeleton by Jan Stephen, a student from Titian's studio. This work
     appeared in 1538 as Tabulae anatomicae sex. The following year he
     produced an anatomical manual for his students, Institutiones
     anatomicae. Vesalius's anatomical researches were beginning to call
     into question some of Galen's findings. By 1540's he was certain that
     Galen's research did not reflect human anatomy; rather it was the
     anatomy of an ape.

     In 1543 Vesalius published two works on anatomy directed to two
     separate audiences. In the longer of the two, the Fabrica, Vesalius
     hoped to persuade the established medical world to appreciate anatomy
     as the foundation of all other medical research. The errors of Galen
     and of others could be corrected by active dissection and observation
     of the human structure. In the same year Vesalius published a work for
     students, the Epitome, which also emphasized the importance of
     dissection and anatomical knowledge in general to the practice of
     medicine. Both works were amply illustrated possibly by students from
     Titian's studio.

7. Means of Support
     Primary: Patronage, Medicine
     Secondary: Academia

     After receiving his doctor in medicine (1537) at Padua, Vesalius
     accepted a position there as an explicator chirurgiae. He was
     responsible for lecturing on surgery and anatomy.

     In 1543 he left academic research to become physician to the imperial
     household. Vesalius held this position until Charles V abdicated in
     favor of his son Philip II, whom Vesalius served until his own death.
     While in royal service Vesalius acted as a military surgeon during the
     Hapsburg campaigns. He also served various members of the court and was
     so esteemed as a physician that he was called to consult on serious

8. Patronage
     Types: Physician, Court Official

     Vesalius dedicated two of his earlier works to Nicolas Florenas, a
     physician and family friend. Vesalius referred to Florenas as the
     patron of his earlier studies.

     Vesalius served the courts of both Charles V and his son Philip II. He
     dedicated his Fabrica to Charles V.

9. Technological Involvement
     Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology

     In 1546 Vesalius wrote an Epistola on the discovery and therapeutic use
     of chinaroot in the treatment of syphilis.

     The following year he introduced a new procedure, the surgically
     induced drainage of empyema.

10. Scientific Societies
     Memberships: None

  1. Harvey Cushing, A Bio-Biography of Andreas Vesalius, (Hamden, 1962).
     Spec. QM16 .V5 Z6 C.D. O'Malley, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels
     1514-1564, (Los Angeles, 1965). QM16 .V5 O5

Compiled by:
     Richard S. Westfall
     Department of History and Philosophy of Science
     Indiana University

Copyright 1995 Albert Van Helden