Born in 1514 in modern-day Belgium, Vesalius studied at the Universities of Louvain, Paris, and Padua before becoming a professor of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua. His primary contribution to the history of medicine was his emphasis on dissection and firsthand observation. Vesalius differed from his colleagues because he used his observations to challenge ancient and often inaccurate Greek and Roman medical writings, which formed the basis of all medical knowledge for over a thousand years.
Vesalius at 500 showcases materials from the Libraries’ collections that helped to shape Vesalius’ career, including medieval manuscripts and early printed books on medicine. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Vesalius’ most famous work, De Humani Corporis Fabrica. The Libraries hold two copies of this important book, a second edition printed in 1555, and a later edition from 1568. Recognizing MU’s strength in human and animal medical research, the exhibition considers Vesalius’ effect on the history of veterinary medicine with several early illustrated works on animal anatomy. Works of Renaissance science are also included in order to situate Vesalius within the world of sixteenth-century scientific thought.
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About the Exhibition
Vesalius at 500: Student, Scholar, and Surgeon was curated in 2014 by a team of rare book librarians from the J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library, the Zalk Veterinary Medical Library, and Ellis Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books department: Alla Barabtarlo, Kelli Hansen, Julie Christenson, Amanda Sprochi, and Trenton Boyd. The exhibition draws on MU Libraries’ special collections of more than 100,000 original artworks, manuscripts, rare books, and historic documents.