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The front cover illustration of De Humani Corporis Fabrica, On the Fabric of the Human Body, written by Andreas Vesalius, showing a public dissection being carried out by Vesalius himself.

Medical Renaissance is a term applied to the period 1400 to 1700 of progress in European medical knowledge, and a renewed interest in the ancient ideas of the Greeks and Romans.


Progress made during the Medical Renaissance depended on several factors.[1][2] The printed book based on movable type, adopted in Europe from the middle of the 15th century, allowed the diffusion of medical ideas and anatomical diagrams. Better knowledge of the original writings of Galen, in particular, developed into the learned medicine tradition through the more open attitudes of Renaissance humanism. Church control of the teachings of the medical profession and universities diminished, and dissection was more often possible.

In the 17th century the microscope was an important technical advance.


Ambroise Paré (1510–1590)[edit]

Main article: Ambroise Paré

Paré was a French surgeon, anatomist and inventor of surgical instruments. He was a military surgeon during the French campaigns in Italy of 1533–36. It was here that, having run out of boiling oil, which was the accepted way of treating firearm wounds, Paré turned to an ancient Roman remedy: turpentine, egg yolk and oil of roses. He applied it to the wounds and found that it relieved pain and sealed the wound effectively. Paré also introduced the ligatures of arteries; silk threads would be used to tie up the arteries of amputated limbs to try and stop the bleeding. As antiseptics had not yet been invented this method lead to an increased fatality rate and was abandoned by medical professionals of the time.[3]

Additionally, Paré set up a school for midwives in Paris and designed artificial limbs.[4]

This drawing by Leonardo da Vinci of a foetus in the womb is one of many detailed anatomical drawings by the artist

Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)[edit]

Main article: Andreas Vesalius

Vesalius was a Flemish-born anatomist whose dissections of the human body helped to correct the misconceptions made in Ancient Times, particularly by Galen, who (for religious reasons) had been able only to study animals such as dogs and monkeys.[5] He wrote many books on anatomy from his observations, most notably De Humani Corporis Fabrica, which contained detailed drawings of the human body posed as if alive.[6]

William Harvey (1578–1657)[edit]

Main article: William Harvey

William Harvey was an English medical doctor-physicist, known for his contributions in heart and blood movement. Not the first to propose pulmonary circulation (Ibn al-Nafis, Michael Servetus and Realdo Colombo preceded him), he is credited as the first person in the Western world to give quantitative arguments for the circulation of blood around the body.[7] He was the foundation for the further research on the heart and blood vessels.[8]


  1. ^ OCR GCSE: Medicine Through Time
  2. ^ Parragon, World History Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Grendler, Paul F. (1999). Encyclopedia of the Renaissanc. New York: Scribner's. p. 399. ISBN 0-684-80511-1. 
  4. ^ Ambroise Pare
  5. ^ Andreas Vesalius
  6. ^ BBC - History - Andreas Vesalius ( 1514–1564)
  7. ^ Spotlight Science 9 (GCSE Science Text Book)
  8. ^ Kids Work! > History of Medicine

Further reading[edit]

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