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History of the French school of anatomy

Italy long retained the distinction of giving birth to the first eminent anatomists in Europe, and the glory she acquired in the names of Mondino, Achillini, Berenger and N. Massa, was destined to become more conspicuous in the labours of R. Columbus, Fallopius and Eustachius. While Italy, however, was thus advancing the progress of science, the other nations of Europe were either in profound ignorance or in the most supine indifference to the brilliant career of their zealous neighbours. The 16th century had commenced before France began to acquire anatomical distinction in the names of Jacques Dubois, Jean Fernel and Charles Etienne; and even these celebrated teachers were less solicitous in the personal study of the animal body than in the faithful explanation of the anatomical writings of Galen. The infancy of the French school had to contend with other difficulties. The small portion of knowledge which had been hitherto diffused in the country was so inadequate to eradicate the prejudices of ignorance, that it was either difficult or absolutely impossible to procure human bodies for the purposes of science; and we are assured, on the testimony of A. Vesalius and other competent authorities, that the practical part of anatomical instruction was obtained entirely from the bodies of the lower animals. The works of the Italian anatomists were unknown; and it is a proof of the tardy communication of knowledge that, while the structure of the human body had been taught in Italy for more than a century by Mondino and his followers, these anatomists are never mentioned by Etienne, who flourished long after.

Two of the first distinguished French anatomists were Jacques Dubois and Charles Etienne. The first major figure was a Fleming, Andreas Vesalius, a pupil of Dubois, who is known as the first author of a comprehensive and systematic view of human anatomy. Eustachius (Bartolomeo Eustachi), an Italian, shares with Vesalius the reputation of having founded the science of human anatomy.

See also History of anatomy

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