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A Moment in History


Raymond de Vieussens
(c.1635 – 1715)

French anatomist and physician. His exact date and place of birth are uncertain, some place him being born in the area of Le Vigan in France and the date for some authors as late as 1641.

What we do know is that he studied at the University of Montpellier where he graduated from his medical studies in 1670. He became a physician at the Hôtel Dieu Saint-Eloi in Montpellier. He later became head physician at the same hospital and apparently maintained this position for the rest of his life. His studies on the anatomy of the heart and lymphatic system were pioneers for the time, as were his studies on the anatomy of the nervous system.

Vieussens was a prolific writer. Among his works in 1706, he published “Nouvelles Découvertes sur le Coeur” (New Discoveries on the Heart) followed by “Traité Nouveau de la Structure et Des causes du Mouvement Naturel du Coeur” (New Treaties on the Structure and Cause of the Natural Movement of the Heart) in 1715. In these books he presented detailed anatomy of the lymphatic system and blood vessels of the heart, as well as his theories on the movement of the heart. In his work, he did the first accurate description of mitral stenosis and aortic disease.

One of his greatest works was “Neurographia Universalis”, published in 1684 in Lyons, France. In this book Vieussens describes the structure of the nervous system with emphasis on the pathways of the white substance, which we know today is formed by bundles of neuronal axons. He accurately described the internal structure of the cerebellum and other structures that today bear his name. Unfortunately Vieussens attempted to describe the physiology of the brain with little factual support, developing wild theories, including the statement that he had found the “fluid of the nerves”.

Some of Vieussens’ work was published posthumously by his family and colleagues. Today, many eponyms remember Vieussens’ name, here are some of them:

Valve of Vieussens: A valve found at the distal end of the great cardiac vein, where it empties into the coronary sinus
Ring of Vieussens: Name for and anatomical variation in the heart, an anastomotic communication between two conal arteries, one arising from the right coronary artery, the other arising from the left anterior descending artery (LAD)
• Centrum of Vieussens: A term that describes the mass of white matter at the center of each cerebral hemisphere
• Ring of Vieussens: Eponymic term for the limbus fossa ovalis, a raised muscular ring surrounding the fossa ovalis in the heart
• Valve of Vieussens: A thin veil of tissue between the superior cerebellar peduncles, forming part of the roof of the 4th ventricle. This is known as the superior medullary vellum and may have some sparse cerebellar tissue on it
• The ventricle of Vieussens: The name of a cavity found in the case where the septum pellucidum is double. The septum pellucidum is a membrane that separates the lateral ventricles of the brain in the midline

If you hover with your mouse over the image of young Vieussens you will see another image of Vieussens at 65. 

Original images courtesy of National Library of Medicine.

 "Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc., and the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily" wish to thank all individuals who donate their bodies and tissues for the advancement of education and research”.

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Andreas Vesalius Bruxellensis

On December 31st, 2017 we celebrate Andreas Vesalius' 503rd birthday...
His teachings and presence inspire us to continue our quest for knowledge, as his motto states:
"Vivitur Ingenio, Cætera Mortis Erunt"

This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.

Andreas Vesalius Bruxellensis (1514- 1564). A Flemish anatomist and surgeon, Andreas Vesalius was born on December 31, 1514 in Brussels, Belgium. He is considered to be the father of the science of Anatomy. Up until his studies and publications human anatomy studies consisted only on the confirmation of the old doctrines of Galen of Pergamon (129AD - 200AD). Anatomy professors would read to the students from Galen's work and a demonstrator would point in a body to the area being described, if a body was used at all. The reasoning was that there was no need to dissect since all that was needed to know was already written in Galen's books. Vesalius, Fallopius, and others started the change by describing what they actually saw in a dissection as opposed to what was supposed to be there. 

Vesalius had a notorious career, both as an anatomist and as a surgeon. His revolutionary book "De Humani Corporis Fabrica: Libri Septem" was published in May 26, 1543. One of the most famous anatomical images is his plate 22 of the book, called sometimes "The Hamlet". You can see this image if you hover over Vesalius' only known portrait which accompanies this article. Sir William Osler said of this book "... it is the greatest book ever printed, from which modern medicine dates" 

After the original 1543 printing, the Fabrica was reprinted in 1555. It was re-reprinted and translated in many languages, although many of these printings were low-quality copies with no respect for copyright or authorship.

Andreas Vesalius Bruxellensis
The story of the wood blocks with the carved images used for the original printing extends into the 20th century. In 1934 these original wood blocks were used to print 617 copies of the book "Iconaes Anatomica". This book is rare and no more can be printed because, sadly, during a 1943 WWII bombing raid over Munich all the wood blocks were burnt.

One interesting aspect of the book was the landscape panorama in some of his most famous woodcuts which was only "discovered" until 1903.

Vesalius was controversial in life and he still is in death. We know that he died on his way back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but how he died, and exactly where he died is lost in controversy. We do know he was alive when he set foot on the port of Zakynthos in the island of the same name in Greece. He is said to have suddenly collapsed and die at the gates of the city, presumably as a consequence of scurvy. Records show that he was interred in the cemetery of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, but the city and the church were destroyed by an earthquake and Vesalius' grave lost to history. Modern researchers are looking into finding the lost grave and have identified the location of the cemetery. This story has not ended yet.

For a detailed biography of Andreas Vesalius CLICK HERE.

Personal note: To commemorate Andrea Vesalius' 500th birthday in 2014, there were many scientific meetings throughout the world, one of them was the "Vesalius Continuum" anatomical meeting on the island of Zakynthos, Greece on September 4-8, 2014. This is the island where Vesalius died in 1564. I had the opportunity to attend and there are several articles in this website on the presence of Andreas Vesalius on Zakynthos island. During 2015 I also attended a symposium on "Vesalius and the Invention of the Modern Body" at the St. Louis University. At this symposium I had the honor of meeting of Drs. Garrison and Hast, authors of the "New Fabrica". For other articles on Andreas Vesalius, click hereDr. Miranda