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Clin Anat. 2011 Jan;24(1):1-9. doi: 10.1002/ca.21073.

Historical vignettes of the thyroid gland.

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Division of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.


Although "glands" in the neck corresponding to the thyroid were known for thousands of years, they were mainly considered pathological when encountered. Recognition of the thyroid gland as an anatomical and physiological entity required human dissection, which began in earnest in the 16th century. Leonardo Da Vinci is generally credited as the first to draw the thyroid gland as an anatomical organ. The drawings were subsequently "lost" to medicine for nearly 260 years. The drawings were probably of a nonhuman specimen. Da Vinci vowed to produce an anatomical atlas, but it was never completed. Michelangelo Buonarroti promised to complete drawings for the anatomical work of Realdus Columbus, De Re Anatomica, but these were also never completed. Andreas Vesalius established the thyroid gland as an anatomical organ with his description and drawings in the Fabrica. The thyroid was still depicted in a nonhuman form during this time. The copper etchings of Bartholomew Eustachius made in the 1560s were obviously of humans, but were not actually published until 1714 with a description by Johannes Maria Lancisius. These etchings also depicted some interesting anatomy, which we describe. The Adenographia by Thomas Wharton in 1656 named the thyroid gland for the first time and more fully described it. The book also attempted to assign a function to the gland. The thyroid gland's interesting history thus touches a number of famous men from diverse backgrounds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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