History of Human Anatomy

Human anatomy has a very old and vast history. Some of the most intelligent people the world has ever seen had been the part of this history. The overall history of human anatomy can be divided into the following periods;

Greek period:

Greek period in the history of human anatomy started somewhere near 400 BC. The most famous anatomists of this period were Hippocrates and Herophilus. Hippocrates was regarded as the father of medicine and he was one of the founders of anatomy.



Herophilus is known as father of anatomy and he was one of the first very few people to dissect human body. Herophilus did some great differentiations in the field of anatomy for example he differentiated cerebrum from cerebellum, nerves from tendons, arteries from veins etc.

Roman period:

The most prominent anatomist of this period was Galen. He is known as the “Prince of Physicians” because he was the first experimental physiologist. His teachings were followed for nearly 15 centuries considering them as infallible authorities of anatomy.



Fourteenth century:

The most prominent scientist of this period was Mondino de Liuzzi. He was an Italian and had the post of professor of anatomy in Balogna. His famous book “Anthomia” was treated as the authorized anatomical text for over a century.

anathomia by mondino de liuzzi

Anathomia by Mondino de Liuzzi

The reason his book became so famous was that he taught anatomy by dissection for which his book was a guide. Before the famous Vesalius, he was the most renowned anatomist.

Fifteenth century:

This century is the time when one of the greatest geniuses of all times Leonardo da Vinci lived. Da Vinci was the originator of cross sectional anatomy. The most admirable and important work done by him in the field of anatomy was the collection of drawings of the things he observed. These drawings were made with extreme perfection. He made a total of 500 diagrams in his 60 notebooks.

leonardo da vinci self portrait in red chalk

Leonardo da Vinci self portrait in red chalk

Sixteenth century:

This is the century of the greatest anatomist of all times, the famous Vesalius. He is regarded as the “Founder of Modern Anatomy” because he made the world realize that anatomy can only be taught through dissection. He corrected the erroneous concepts of Galen and fought against his authority thus he corrected the concepts which were continuously taught wrong for about 15 centuries.

andreas vesalius

Andreas Vesalius

Seventeenth century:

In this century lived the famous English anatomist William Harvey. He discovered the circulation of blood through human body and published in the book titled “Anatomical exercise on the motion of blood and heart in animals:” He also published a book on embryology.

william harvey

William Harvey

Eighteenth and Nineteenth century:

In these two centuries major steps were taken in learning procedure for anatomy. Dissection was made compulsory for medical students. Warburton Anatomy Act was passed in England under which the unclaimed bodies were made available for dissection. The use of formalin as a fixative started in this period and techniques of endoscopy were also discovered. Prominent anatomists of this century included Cuvier, Meckel and Henry Gray (Author of Gray’s Anatomy).

henry gray

Henry Gray