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Introduction Anatomy, Medicine, and the New Philosophy 1. Anatomical Research in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century This volume examines how anatomical knowledge in the second half of the seventeenth century was gained and transmitted, as well as how these processes interacted with the experimental and mechanical philosophies, natural history, and medical practice . In line with contemporary usage, by “anatomy” I mean the study of structures as well as their actions and purpose, thus including what we today call physiology. I am especially interested in the growing range of techniques and tools of investigation adopted in the study of animals and plants, in visual representation, and in philosophical perspectives about the mechanistic understanding of the body. Moreover, I pay close attention to the mutual relationships among anatomical research, pathology , and therapy. Marcello Malpighi was a key figure in all these developments and therefore occupies a central position in this work.¹ The last three quarters of the seventeenth century witnessed the revival of classical techniques of investigation, such as vivisection, the striking refinement of others, such as chymical assaying and vascular injections, and the emergence of entirely new ones, such as microscopy. Moreover, the study of the lesions produced by disease in dead bodies shed light on pathology and on the normal operations of the body as well. These developments led to profound and at the same time problematic changes in the understanding of the body and its diseases. The shifting genres of publication are indicative in this regard: the earlier anatomical literature to the beginning of the seventeenth century often consisted of treatises on the entire human body, such as sixteenth-century classics by Andreas Vesalius and Realdo Colombo and the main works at the turn of the century, Historia anatomica by André du Laurens, physician to Henry IV, and Theatrum anatomicum, by the Basel professor Caspar Bauhin. By contrast, a vast portion of the anatomical literature from the second half of the seventeenth century appeared in short essays dealing with specific organs, vessels, and 2 Mechanism, Experiment, Disease bodily fluids, such as pancreatic juice or saliva, the main exceptions being successive editions of several textbooks and compendia, as well as Giovanni Alfonso Borelli’s De motu animalium. These preliminary observations lead to a time frame for my work.² The years 1627 and 1628 witnessed the publication of Gasparo Aselli’s De lactibus sive lacteis venis and William Harvey’s De motu cordis et sanguinis, both relying on vivisection: curiously, Aselli claimed the discovery of a new anatomical part—the milky veins carrying chyle from the intestine to the liver—whose existence and role had already been anticipated and conceptualized since antiquity; by contrast, Harvey discovered no new body part but provided a new understanding of the motion of the heart and blood in a circle, views without precedents in antiquity and at best dubious ones during the Renaissance. The 1639 Leiden edition of Harvey’s De motu announced in the address to the reader the publication of Aselli’s De lactibus, which appeared in 1640 as a companion to Harvey’s work, with which it is often bound. Starting from that time, Aselli’s and Harvey’s works were often joined as the outstanding anatomical contributions of their time, together with two important letters of 1640 by the Leiden professor Johannes Walaeus confirming their findings. Contemporary anatomical textbooks and treatises included Aselli’s and Harvey’s findings. Later in the century, the huge Bibliotheca anatomica by the Geneva physicians and medical historians Daniel Le Clerc and Jacques Manget, first published in 1685 and then in expanded form in 1699, presented in over two thousand double-column folio pages the most recent findings in human anatomy, often with valuable critical notes, focusing chiefly on works published after 1650. Le Clerc and Manget both reflected and contributed to shaping the anatomical horizon of their time; Aselli’s and Harvey ’s works were included, but they were the exception in a collection focused on the second half of the century. While taking into account Aselli’s and Harvey’s works, it seems thus justified to consider midcentury as a starting point for my project.³ Toward the end of the century, the contradictions emerging from some of the most interventionist techniques of investigation led to doubts and controversies. In the study of many body parts such as the spleen, liver, and cerebral cortex, the refined injections by the Amsterdam anatomist Frederik Ruysch led to a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780801899805
Related ISBN
9780801899041
MARC Record
OCLC
794700377
Pages
456
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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