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Herophilus Dissecting Human Cadavers

Herophilus (335–280 BC), was a Greek physician deemed to be among the earliest anatomists. Born in Chalcedon, he spent the majority of his life in Alexandria, Egypt. He was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers. He recorded his findings in over nine works, which are now all lost. The early Christian author Tertullian states that Herophilos vivisected at least 600 live prisoners. Herophilus and his student Erasistratus were the first and only ancient anatomists known to dissect human beings, also made different discoveries but they wouldn’t reach them without unbelievable sacrifices, these two quotes from Roman writers show the change in opinion of dissection and those who perform them:

Herophilus and his student Erasistratus proceeded in by far the best way: they cut open living men – criminals they obtained out of prison from the kings and they observed, while their subjects still breathed, parts that nature had previously hidden, their position, color, shape , size, arrangement, hardness, softness, smoothness, points of contact, and finally the processes and recesses of each and whether any part is inserted into another or receives the part of another into itself. -Celsus, Roman Medical Writer, 1st Century AD.

‘[Herophilus] that doctor, or rather butcher, who cut up innumerable human beings so that he could investigate nature’ – Tertullian, On the Soul, 2nd-3rd Century AD.

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