The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Teaching Anatomy in the Post-Vesalian Era

Human fetus and fetal heart

De formato foetu, written by Girolamo Fabrizio d'Acquapendente, first published in 1600, is one of the most extensive early modern medical works on fetal anatomy.

The shift in process in the study of anatomy after the issue of the Fabrica was evident in the work of Gabriele Fallopius, who was appointed professor of surgery, anatomy and botany at the University of Padua in 1551. Fallopius modified the pedagogy of dissection by assuming the roles of both ostensor and dissector along with lectors Apellato and Trincavelli. Fallopius made major contributions in describing structures of the muscles, nerves and female reproductive organs, particularly his identification of the fallopian tubes.

After Vesalius' death in 1562, the chair of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua remained empty until 1565, when Girolamo Fabrizio d'Acquapendente (1533 – 1619) was appointed to the position. As noted earlier, Fabrizio led the university in the construction of the first permanent anatomical theater in 1594. This theater held up to 300 people, none of whom would have been more than 30 feet away from the dissection table. Fabrizio systematized the study of anatomy. First, he dissected and described the anatomy of a physical structure. Then he discussed the action of the structure as an independent organ. Finally, Fabrizio discussed the interdependent function of the structure within the larger system of the body. In so doing, Fabrizio laid the groundwork for the merger of form and function, anatomy and physiology.