From Aristotle to Leonardo. The Difficult Road of Anatomy
Anatomy Throughout the Centuries
Anatomy is a Greek term meaning "to cut up," while in old times this word was frequently used as synonym of “dissection.” The word “physiology” also derives from the Greek with the meaning of "the study of nature of human organism.” Both anatomy and physiology belong to Biology, “the study of living organisms.”
In ancient times the dissection of human bodies was used for to learn more about the constitution and function of them. In fact, we have unquestionable evidence that in ancient times the physicians had specific knowledge of the structure of animals and human beings, even if the ideas of Hippocrates (460-366 BC) had vague ideas about the anatomy. Historians agree that the founder of anatomical studies was Aristotle (384-322 BC), whose knowledge about it was considerable and accurate. Certainly Galen (129-199 AD), a well-known Greek physician, was a great anatomist, but, like Aristotle, he gained his knowledge largely from the dissection of animals.
In Italy, in the Middle Ages there were important Medical Schools at Padua and Salerno, but during the Italian Renaissance the science of anatomy aroused great interest among many intellectuals and artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, who practiced the so-called “notomia” (an old Italian term for “anatomia”=anatomy), that is the dissection of the bodies because one of his key preoccupations was the “real knowledge” of human body, despite both the prohibitions and restrictions of the Catholic Church and in contrast with the Aristotelian physicians, who were inclined to trust in Aristotle without any empirical verification.
In the succeeding centuries, especially both during the 18th century and the 19th century the science of anatomy attained to a high level of exactness in all European countries. Today anatomy has essential surgical implementations, for which all physicians should be able to recognize anatomical structures, the function of body system, and to know the correlations between the same structures and their function, and many other notions inherent this field.