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History of Science 16th Century Natural History - Vesalius

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia Week 10: 16th-century life sciences

Topic 1: 16th-century Medicine and Anatomy

# Due Date Pts Activity Time
2 Wednesday
11:59 p.m.

Topic 1 + Quiz
Background: Without a sense of context, history is anachronistic.
Primary sources: Without documentary evidence, history is speculation
The first of two topic assignments per week involving both background and primary sources.

90 min.
# Due Date Pts Activity Time
3 Thursday
11:59 p.m.

Topic2 + Quiz
Background: Without a sense of context, history is anachronistic.
Primary sources: Without documentary evidence, history is speculation
The second of two topic assignments per week involving both background and primary sources.

90 min.

Readings for this week include three short but information-packed chapters from Debus, and a website about Vesalius:

TOPIC QUIZ: The statements are either True or False. When you take the quiz at Janux, you will see 12 of these statements, chosen at random, worth 2 points each.

  1. T or F? Alchemy in the Latin West was largely based upon Aristotelian theories of the four elements, humors and qualities, and therefore carried with it an aura of rational clarity contrary to mysticism.
  2. T or F? The early alchemist, Bonus of Ferrara, argued that one should adhere to the authority of Aristotle, even if Aristotelian theories seem at first to be contradicted by experiment.
  3. T or F? Because of their preoccupation with transforming base metals into gold, Medieval and Islamic alchemists did little to advance experimental techniques or apparatus before the Renaissance.
  4. T or F? The first printed book devoted to an occupational health problem was written by Paracelsus on the diseases of miners.
  5. T or F? Paracelsians sought to defend the authority of Aristotle in the universities against attacks by the Galenists.
  6. T or F? Paracelsians defended the use of geometry in science, arguing that questions only become scientific when it is possible to investigate them in generalized, abstract, mathematical terms.
  7. T or F? Paracelsians argued that the deity created the universe in an instant, rather than using chemical processes.
  8. T or F? For many Paracelsians, the Earth was a vast chemical laboratory equipped with a central fire, distillation and alembic apparatus.
  9. T or F? Concepts of sympathy and antipathy were used to explain mutual influences between correspondending aspects of the macrocosm and microcosm.
  10. T or F? Paracelsians defended the practice of bloodletting because of their doctrine of signatures.
  11. T or F? Paracelsus based his use of chemical medicines on the Galenic theory that 'contraries cure.'
  12. T or F? Paracelsian physicians understood diseases in terms of specific bodily locations or organs, governed by internal archei, rather than the imbalance of humoral fluids.
  13. T or F? Humanistic scholarship criticized and corrected authoritative texts (like Pliny’s Natural History) on the basis of observation and experiment.
  14. T or F? Encyclopedic naturalists like Gesner, Aldrovandi and Topsell sought to present in their natural histories everything that was known about an animal, whether from ancient texts or new discoveries.
  15. T or F? Pierre Belon’s natural history of fish included the whales (cetaceans) because he did not know that whales nourish the developing embryo by a placenta or that the young are born alive.
  16. T or F? Pierre Belon’s natural history drew attention to homologies in the skeletons of humans and birds.
  17. T or F? During the 16th and early 17th centuries, naturalists began including descriptions of New World and East Indies animals such as the rhinoceros, sloth, anteater, orangutan and jaguar.
  18. T or F? The chief ancient source of pharmaceutical knowledge (materia medica) was Theophrastus, Aristotle’s student and successor.
  19. T or F? The early humanist editions of Dioscorides contain abundant illustrations due to humanist scholars’ interest in identifying northern European plants that correspond to the Mediterranean plants described by Dioscorides.
  20. T or F? Despite the early herbals, public botanical gardens were not established in major cities like Bologna and Paris until after the 16th century.
  21. T or F? The northern European herbals of Brunfels and Fuchs contained many illustrations of plants drawn from actual specimens.
  22. T or F? 16th-century physicians used chemical methods such as distillation in order to prepare medicines derived from herbs.
  23. T or F? The discovery of New World plants, medicines, and diseases by writers such as d’Orta, Monardes, l’Ecluse, da Costa and Bondt diminished the authority of Galen and Dioscorides.
  24. T or F? Dioscorides arranged descriptions of about 500 plants alphabetically, but when herbals began to include 5 or 6 thousand plants, some other kind of classification scheme was needed.
  25. T or F? Adam Zaluzian argued that botany is a subject of special study in its own right, and not merely an adjunct for the study of medicine.
  26. T or F? Fabio Colonna argued that parts of the flower were essential to botanical classification.
  27. T or F? Andrea Cesalpino proposed a binomial system of nomenclature for plants, where every plant would be given a two-part name consisting of its genus and species.
  28. T or F? Michael Servetus described the pulmonary circulation of the blood.
  29. T or F? Public dissection of human cadavers for the instruction of medical students was not permitted at medieval universities until the beginning of the 16th century.
  30. T or F? The anatomical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci are usually credited with influencing Renaissance universities to allow human dissection.
  31. T or F? In ‘On the fabric of the human body’ (1543), Vesalius radically departed from Galen in his discussion of blood flow and the Galenic spirits (natural, vital, and animal).
  32. T or F? In the second edition of ‘On the fabric of the human body’ (1555), Vesalius rejected Galen’s account of invisible pores through which blood flowed across the ventricular septum.
  33. T or F? Gabriele Fallopio discovered the valves in the veins that cause blood to flow in a single direction.
  34. T or F? Michael Servetus was honored by Calvin and other Christians in Geneva for his discovery of the pulmonary circulation.
  35. T or F? Ibn an Nafis described the pulmonary circulation in the middle ages.
  36. T or F? William Harvey’s case for the circulation of the blood included a quantitative argument based on the total amount of blood flow.
  37. T or F? Harvey’s case for the circulation of the blood depended in part on his discovery of the capillaries, the tiny vessels in body tissues connecting the smallest arteries and veins.
  38. T or F? Illustrated herbals were exclusively large folio volumes, unsuited for transport to the field or garden.
  39. T or F? Fuchs described over a hundred northern European plants not included by Dioscorides in his descriptions of Mediterranean plants.
  40. T or F? Herbal illustrations were sometimes hand-colored by women who worked in the printers’ workshops.
  41. T or F? In many universities, astrology was taught in the medical schools.
  42. T or F? Paracelsus integrated astrology, hermeticism, and chemistry in his approach to medicine.
  43. T or F? The medieval dissection manuals of Mondino de Luzzi followed the methodology (sequence) of Galen very closely.
  44. T or F? Vesalius’ training emphasized Galen and humanist textual scholarship.
  45. T or F? The frontispiece depiction of an anatomical theater in Vesalius’ De fabrica (1543) depicts a female cadaver, a dog and a monkey.
  46. T or F? The De fabrica of Vesalius followed the ancient dissection methodology (sequence) of Galen.
  47. T or F? Historiated initials depict stories of common activities performed by medical students represented as cherubs or putti.
  48. T or F? The muscle-men series in De fabrica depict human muscles just as they would appear on a dissection table, in a limp and passive state.
  49. T or F? In order to produce naturalistic appearing anatomical illustrations, Vesalius perfected his artistic skills through lengthy training with Titian.
  50. T or F? Northern European universities in the 16th century began to require all students, not just graduate students in the medical school, to study human anatomy.


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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux