Cherubs carrying out vivisection on a pig, 1543.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustration from Andreas Vesalius's greatest work 'De Humani Corporis Fabrica' ('On the Structure of the Human Body'), 1543, which, with its detailed descriptions and magnificent illustrations, set a new level of clarity and accuracy in the study of anatomy. It was an innovatory work that challenged traditional assumptions about the body dating back to the time of Galen. Vesalius (1514-1564) became professor of anatomy and surgery at Padua, Italy, at the age of 24. He carried out dissections himself, and used vivisection in his anatomical demonstrations. He was the first to describe and illustrate many anatomical structures. Vesalius later went on to become court physician to Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II of Spain.