Thursday, February 14, 2002

Superb edition of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time on Radio 4 this morning, about Anatomy: The Greeks thought we were built like pigs, and when Renaissance man first cut his sacred flesh it was an act of heresy. From the noble ambitions of medical science to the murky underworld of Victorian grave robbing, we trace 2000 years of anatomical study.

Took me back to my year in the dissecting room at Oxford. Apparently there is an abundant supply of bodies for medical students these days, in contrast with the Nineteenth Century when Burke and Hare smothered their guests to sell on to the medical schools.

An interesting fact - the Vatican never opposed dissection of human cadavers per se, in fact they set up one of the earliest institions for the study of anatomy. But you would burn for pointing out the errors in Galen, the classical father of the subject. One of the guests vividly painted a Renaissance anatomy lecture, with the professor solemnly intoning "Note the five lobes of the liver, as in Galen", while his assistant holds up a smooth and lobeless human liver.

No comments: