In the preface to De humani corporis fabrica (1543), Andreas Vesalius explains to Charles V why it is indispensable for anatomists to be trained in the practice of dissection. This strong vindication of manual labor, hitherto considered menial and dishonorable for physicians, is one of the cornerstones of the anatomical revolution. As anatomists dissect away, ever more convinced of the importance of using their own hands, the complexities of the physiology of the human hand are revealed to them. This essay focuses on Andreas Vesalius’s exploration of the mysteries of the human hand. In his work, Vesalius stresses time and again the old Aristotelian and Galenic idea that the possession of hands is the mark of biological superiority over animals, as well as the crucial role played by the collaboration between sight and touch in both anatomy and clinical medicine.

You do not currently have access to this content.