Human anatomical science and illustration: the origin of two inseparable disciplines.Clin Anat. 1999; 12(2):120-9.CA
From the early wall paintings of ancient Egyptians to the recent advent of computer graphics, medical illustrators have employed a variety of techniques and materials to enrich the art of medicine. Over the centuries, medical illustrators have captured the variety of physical findings observed in the clinical, surgical, or postmortem settings and transferred them to a permanent medium. Specifically, the study of human anatomy has enjoyed a historically popular courtship with medical artistry since 1543, when Andreas Vesalius published his now legendary work entitled De Humani Corporis Fabrica. However, the development and subsequent advancement of human anatomical illustration are indebted to individuals whose lifetimes span several centuries prior to Vesalius. The scientific achievements in anatomy manifest not only an advancement of knowledge, but also are a reflection of cultural, political, and religious beliefs. With respect to the development of human anatomic illustration, three elements were essential: the recognition of anatomy as a distinct branch of medical science, the acceptance of human dissection as a scientific method to advance understanding of anatomical structure, and the advancement in printing such that illustrations could be included alongside descriptive text. This brief study will examine these milestones while highlighting the origin of anatomical illustration in its historical context and its relationship to the development of human anatomy as a recognized medical science.