A History of Anatomy Theaters in Sixteenth-Century Padua
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 59, Number 3, July 2004
- pp. 375-412
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The history of anatomy includes not only professors and the support of their institutions but also medical students. Because medical students were quick to assess a teacher's pedagogy, their complaints tell us a great deal about the transition from Galenic to Aristotelian projects of anatomy. When Fabricius of Aquapendente instituted a new style of anatomical inquiry, one based on Aristotle and the search for universal principles, students repeatedly complained that his demonstrations did not provide technical education in structural anatomy (as demonstrations employing a hands-on, Galenic pedagogy did). Within the new anatomy theater (the second of its kind in Padua), however, students were persuaded to accept Fabricius's demonstrations. Fabricius's philosophical orientation combined with the formal atmosphere and aesthetic features of the new theater to create anatomy demonstrations that relied on orations and music for their structure (rather than on the progressive stages of human dissection). A place that emphasized a discourse of anatomy as the study of the "secrets of nature," the new theater so effectively publicized a new style of anatomy that a larger, more diverse group of spectators attended subsequent demonstrations and participated in the celebration of leading academic figures as well as the institution of the university.