The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library


Andreae Vesalii

From 1555 edition of De humani corporis fabrica. Illustration attributed to Jan Stephan Kalkar, a student of Titian.

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) was born in Brussels to a wealthy and well-educated medical family from the German town of Wesel. His father worked as an apothecary for Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Vesalius was educated at the finest European schools of his day. He received an arts degree from the University of Louvain in 1532, and entered the University at Paris in 1533 to study medicine. It was in Paris where Vesalius was first criticized for conducting "hands-on" dissections. He completed his medical education in 1537 at the University of Padua, one of the leading universities in sixteenth-century Western Europe. The day after he graduated, he became a lecturer in anatomy and surgery at Padua. Vesalius conducted his first human dissection at Padua on December 6, 1537.

Upon the completion of De humani corporis fabrica in 1543, Vesalius hand delivered a copy of the book to Charles V, who was so taken by the work that he offered Vesalius a position as physician to his family. Vesalius' political connections were a major asset in his working life, yet despite his famous clients, his most important contributions to the study of anatomy were not clinical. Instead, he is best remembered for the publication of distinctive illustrated texts that revealed new anatomical discoveries and changed the way people taught and learned about anatomy.