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J Hist Neurosci. 2004 Sep;13(3):195-217.

An early illustrated comparative anatomy of the brain: Samuel Collins' A Systeme of Anatomy (1685) and the emergence of comparative neurology in 17th century England.

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Department of Neurobiology, Brain Research Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The concept of comparing of the brains of various animals and of individual human brains was launched in the last half of the 17th century in England and was much influenced by the formation of the European scientific societies and their attempts to guide naturalist observations into a new systematics. An ambitious attempt to document this trend in an extensively illustrated work of encyclopedic pretensions was the singular publication of Samuel Collins (1618-1710), an energetic anatomist and president of the Royal College of Physicians. His little known tow-volume folio presentation, written in teh vernacular for broad acceptance, contains the seeds of a science of comparative neurology with the largest collection of brain illustrations (as well as of other organ systems) attempted in his era. Although lacking the conceptual insight that might derive from a true "comparative" anatomy and an understanding of the relations of different animals, the handsome engravings exemplified the new direction of the 'enlightenment' of the scientific revolution and are discussed in teh context of relevant events of this period.

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