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Neurosurgery. 2009 Oct;65(4):787-93; discussion 793-4. doi: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000324991.45949.E4.

Development of anatomic science in the late middle ages: the roles played by Mondino de Liuzzi and Guido da Vigevano.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Medical historians generally consider anatomic science, as we know it today, to have been established through the pioneering work of Vesalius during the Renaissance. Although this is largely true, detailed assessment of the scientific advances made in the late Middle Ages, though not as spectacular as those made during the Renaissance period, did pave the way and form a foundation for subsequent progress. During the two centuries of AD 1300 to 1500, several worthwhile advances occurred. Many universities, centers of learning excellence, were established throughout Europe, most notably in Italy. King Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, established guidelines for medical education and practice that seem to parallel current regulations. Human cadaveric dissection was performed, after a hiatus of over 1700 years, as the foundation for the study of anatomy. Observation of human dissection became a requirement for medical students. A manual for anatomic dissection was written, printed, and published for the first time in history by Mondino de Liuzzi. His student, Guido da Vigevano, who also had an engineering background, established two "firsts" of his own: providing illustrations of anatomy and designing the first automobile in history. The authors believe that the contributions of these two key anatomists in the late Middle Ages should not be forgotten.

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