Father of Modern Anatomy

For centuries, Christian convictions motivated scientists to pursue understanding. Christianity was not in conflict with scientific inquiry and it wasn't a "science stopper," as many suggest these days. That's because modern science is dominated by the philosophy of materialism, which rejects God. It's not science itself that is in conflict with Christianity; it's the philosophy that is a prior conviction of the majority of scientists today.

One 16th century scientist was motivated by his Christian convictions, and his studies led him to glorify God all the more. Andreas Vesalius is the founder of modern anatomy. He studied medicine at the University of Paris between 1533 and 1536. He dissected animals, which was the common practice of the time, but also participated in some of the first human dissections. He wrote a book on human anatomy that was groundbreaking at the time since the leading book in the field at the time actually drew conclusions from animal dissection, rather than human. His book provided a "more extensive and accurate description of the human body than any pur forward by his predecessors." Most church leaders raised no objections to his work. Vesalius eventually became the emperor's physician and later for the Madrid Court.

Vesalius understood his work as gaining knowledge about God's design work:

When we read Fabric, we begin to understand this favor of the church. In the first chapter, Vesalius exults over the created wonder of bones: "God, the supreme Architect, in his wisdom formed material of this temperament, placing it beneath the surface as a foundation for the whole body." In Book II, he urges his reader to "sing hymns to the Creator of the world, who produced from such a tiny space [the jaw muscle] in charge of such an important task." In Book VI, he passes over the question of why so much water flowed from the side of the crucified Jesus, "for I must not in the slightest degree upset the complete veracity of the authentic Gospel of John."

Vesalius's theologically informed approach to anatomy was not unusual in his time. Many sixteenth-century researchers studied the body to gain insight into the soul. Indeed, anatomy entered the curriculum of Lutheran Protestant schools not through medical schools but as part of the study of philosophy. And the man who introduced anatomy to the University of Wittenberg's curriculum in 1535 was a theologian—Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560).


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Melinda Penner