Hellenistic Anatomy and Physiology Assignment Guidelines

The Alexandrian anatomists and physiologists Herophilus and Erasistratus are remembered for their practice of dissection and, possibly, vivisection.  Today medical students in their first year are introduced to human anatomy by dissecting a cadaver.  The practice of performing operations on live animals for the purpose of experimentation or scientific research, vivisection, remains controversial. 

Length:  4 paragraphs  maximum 1,000 words

Read the following two articles:

J.F. Dobson  “Vivisection”  Proceedings Royal Society on Medicine 18 (1925), 25-32  

Heinrich Von Staden “The Discovery of the Human Body: Human Dissection and its Cultural Contexts in Ancient Greece,” (Links to an external site.) Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 65 (1992) 223-241.

Answer the following four questions when you have completed the articles.   

1.  What were Celsus and Tertullian’s objections to vivisection?  

2.  What were the cultural factors that served as obstacles to dissection and vivisection for the presocratic and classical Greek natural philosophers?

3.  What were the political and social circumstances in Alexandria in the 3rd century that “emboldened Herophilus to overcome the pressures of cultural traditions and initiate systematic human dissection?

4.  What factors account for the abrupt halt of dissection in Alexandria?

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