Medical Studies in the Scientific Revolution

December 9, 2013 | | Comments Off on Medical Studies in the Scientific Revolution

In the time of the scientific revolution, biology was a new method of human science being studied. Most people during this time did not approve with tampering with  the human body after death. This is especially the opinion of highly religious people. Renaissance  painters during the time were very familiar with the anatomy of the human body.

Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholas Tulp(1632) by Rembradnt Van Rijn

However in ancient Greece, the Greeks studied human skeletons and dissected animals to formulate explanations of how the human body actually works. For example Galen(130-201), had did just that. He concluded that the key to his system, was the that the human body has four humors, blood, black bile, phlegm, and choler.  If a person was ill it was because one of these humors were not balanced with the others. The solution to this would be to to release some of these imbalanced humors, a process known as purging, in the case of blood its called bloodletting. This method was not particularly successful. He also concluded that there are two types of blood in the human body. One of them supplied nutrients from the liver to the veins through out the whole body. The other one vivified the body by flowing through your arteries.

Image of Galen, the foremost medical authority of the ancient world. 



The heart was a primary organ of respiration and for the production of animal heat. Blood was made in the liver. 


Galen’s four humors of the body

Ironically enough in formal medical education the professionals and students did not dissect human bodies. It was thought of as a lowly practice. Instead barber surgeons would perform dissections on people, which was typically done during battles or after,on soldiers. At this time manual labor was lowly and intellectually work was highly thought of. The majority of the practitioners thought that way,  but  there were a few who thought that both manual and intellectual work went hand in hand. Practitioner,German physician alchemist, Parecelsus broke tradition of the ancient tests of Galen and experimented with chemicals to cure illnesses instead of purges. Medical establishments opposed and criticized him. Those who worked in the military actually had more of chance to experiment because of development of military technology. The development of military technology was  cruel and humane, but highly improved the ability to actually cure a person.

Another key medical practitioner was named Andreas Vesalius(1514-15640). He was a a Belgium surgeon who wrote  The Structure of the Human Body in 1543 form careful and tedious analysis of his own. Not only did he write about the anatomy of the human body but he drew very precise at the time, anatomical drawings. One can see just by glancing at them that he was very serious about his drawing, but also added a little humor. These drawings were the fist to be available to students of medicine.


Andreas Versalius book, The structure of the Human Body

Englishmen, William Harvey(1578-1657) with the help newly invented microscope, proved Galen’s conclusion about blood flow and the main function of the heart wrong. The telescope let him see the vessels through which the blood flowed, and eventually with enough experiments he figured out that the heart was indeed the main source through which blood flows through. Later in the 17th century practitioner, Robert Boyle proved another one of Galen’s conclusions wrong about the four humors. He said that the world is made up of tiny particles and changes is the particles brought on changes in matter. Motion and matter are key.


The invention of the microscope helped in the discovery of how blood is circulated through the body.


Boyle argued that everything in the world is made up of tiny particles.


Frankforter, A. Daniel., and W. M. Spellman. “Chapter 15.” The West: A Narrative History. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009. N. pag. Print.,d.cWc&psig=AFQjCNHlF0mhEo9jb6I1LZQxnaBXVrgaow&ust=1386706197369638


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