Indiana University Bloomington

Anatomia Animata: Anatomy and Medicine in William Harvey's Century

The Viscera and the Glands

The careful study of the internal organs in the seventeenth century provided much of the force by which the Galenic understanding of anatomy was overturned. The experiments performed were, however, interested primarily in the function of the organs, and to study function one had to study in the context of a living organism. Thus, many of the great discoveries displayed on this page were found by dissecting animals while alive. In addition, the newly implemented microscope was also hugely influential in discovering both the structure and function of the viscera and the glands.

Gaspare Aselli. De Lactibus sive Lacteis Venis, Quarto Vasorum Mesaraicorum Genere Novo Invento ... Milan: Apud J. Baptistam Bidellium, 1627.

On the 23rd of July, 1622, during the vivisection of a dog that had recently been fed, Aselli discovered the chyliferous vessels — numerous white filaments branching throughout the entire mesentery and along the peritoneal surface of the intestine. Aselli found that incision of one of these filaments released a milky, white fluid. Immediately following his discovery, he began to study these structures in more detail, looking at the structures in various animals.

The results of his investigations were collected in De Lactibus, which includes some of the most striking anatomical images from the seventeenth century. Besides their intrinsic scientific worth, the charts are important because of the new technique used in their composition: they were done entirely in color. Color was necessary in order to distinguish the various types of vessels he was describing.

Aselli traced the course of the chyliferous vessels to the mesenteric glands and likely confused them with the lymphatic vessels of the liver — thus he did not follow their course to the thoracic duct or its terminus in the left subclavian vein. Aselli still adhered to the Galenic doctrine of a five–lobed liver which formed the center of the venous system and produced blood.

Jean Pecquet. Experimenta Nova Anatomica ... Paris: Apud Sebastianum Cramoisy & Gabrielem Cramoisy, 1651.

In 1651, Jean Pecquet discovered the thoracic duct and thus disproved the traditional Galenic idea that chyle was carried by the vessels of the intestine to the liver. He published his results in this text, Experimenta Nova Anatomica, a recent acquisition of The Lilly Library.

After Aselli's discovery of the chyliferous vessels (the lacteals), many researchers sought to discover the reservoir of the chyle, but Pecquet made the discovery through engaging in what he referred to as anatomia animata, or what we refer to as vivisection. He performed this particular experiment on a dog, but Pecquet also performed vivisections of cattle, pigs, sheep, and other animals. In the seventeenth century, animal vivisection became one of the physiologically minded researcher's most powerful tools.

Thomas Bartholin. Vasa Lymphatica, Nuper Hafniae in Animantibus Inventa, et Hepatis Exsequiae. Paris: Apud Vicuam Mathurini du Puis, 1653.

On the page currently displayed, Thomas Bartholin humorously announced the "funeral of the liver." Multiple discoveries in the seventeenth century had shown that Galenic thinking about the liver — that it was the seat of blood production and was supplied with nutrients by the lacteals — was simply wrong.

After being informed by his brother, Erasmus Bartholin, of Pecquet's discovery of the thoracic duct and the cisterna chyli in dogs, Bartholin began to search for them in the cadavers of two criminals that had been donated by the king. He found the duct but apparently overlooked the cisterna chyli and declared that it was not always present in man. Nevertheless, Bartholin's greatest contribution to physiology is widely recognized as his discovery that the lymphatic system is an entirely separate system. Initially, he sought to explain the lymphatics as the structures that provide the liver with chyle for the manufacture of blood. However, in February of 1652, with the help of his assistant, Michael Lyser, Bartholin concluded that the lymphatics formed a hitherto unrecognized physiological system. This was reported in 1653 in the currently displayed work. One year later, Bartholin confirmed the existence of the human lymphatic system in a different work.

Francis Glisson. Anatomia Hepatis. Cui Praemittuntur Quaedam ad Rem Anatomicam Universe Spectantia ... London: Typis Du–Gardianis, Impensis Octaviani, 1654.

Anatomia Hepatis was the first text printed in England to present a detailed anatomical and physiological account of just one organ based on original research. It was also the most important book hitherto published on the digestive system. Glisson used advanced anatomical methods, such as casts, the injection of colored fluids, and microscopy to illustrate the liver more accurately than had been done before. He delineated the passage of blood from the portal vein to the vena cava and also showed that lymph does not flow to the liver but rather away from it, passing to the recently discovered capsula communis. This fibrous capsule, which Glisson was the first to correctly describe, is now referred to as "Glisson's capsule." Glisson was Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge for over forty years, one of the founders of the Royal Society, and also president of the Royal College of Physicians for two years.

Thomas Wharton. Adenographia: sive, Glandularum Totius Corporis Descriptio ... London: Typis J. G., Impensis Authoris, 1656.

In 1656 Thomas Wharton published, at his own expense, Adenographia, "a description of the glands of the entire body," which became a foundational work. The text gave the first thorough account of the glands of the human body, which Wharton classified as either excretory, reductive, or nutrient. He described both the spleen and pancreas, and he differentiated the viscera from the glands; in addition, he discussed the abdominal and thoracic glands, those of the head, and the reproductive glands; he discovered the duct of the submaxillary salivary glands, the jelly of the umbilical cord, and gave the first thorough account of the thyroid. His approach used many of the same physiological methods that Harvey had used with great success.

Marcello Malpighi. De Pulmonibus Observationes Anatomicae. In Thomas Bartholin's De Pulmonum Substantia et Motu Diatribe. Copenhagen: Typ. Prostate apud P. Hauboldum, 1663.

De Pulmonibus is Malpighi's first publication, and according to Luigi Belloni, his "fundamental" work. Originally sent to Borelli in two short letters, it was published first in 1661. The 1663 edition owned by The Lilly Library is the second edition and is itself a rarity.

According to traditional medicine and anatomy, the lungs were thought to be simple, fleshy viscera. Malpighi began viewing lungs through his microscope in 1659, and he discovered that they are in fact composed of membraneous alveoli surrounded by an extensive capillary network that open into their ultimate tracheobronchial ramifications. Thus, Malpighi had discovered the long sought–after connections between the arteries and the veins, and he thereby had confirmed Harvey's theory of the circulation of the blood.

Even in this early work it is clear that Malpighi had already become a master of microscopic technique. He used various instruments with different magnifying powers, several different light sources, and numerous ways of preparing specimens.

Johann Konrad Peyer. Exercitatio Anatomico–Medica de Glandulis Intestinorum ... Schaffhausen: Impensis Onophrij á Waldkirich, Typis Alexandri Riedingii, 1677.

In this work Peyer described the lymphatic nodules and masses that line the wall of the ileum and still bear his name ("Peyer's patches"). Peyer was born into a patrician family and studied medicine at Basel before becoming the pupil of Du Verney at Paris and later of Vieussens at Montpellier. At this time the chemical nature of digestion was still a mystery, and Peyer thus believed that the ileal follicles were actually glands that excreted digestive juices.

Johann Conrad Brunner. Experimenta Nova Circa Pancreas. Accedit Diatribe de Lympha & Genuino Pancreatis Usu ... Amsterdam: Apud H. Wetstenium, 1683.

Probably assisted by his friend, Peyer, the Swiss Physician Johann Conrad Brunner performed several pioneering experiments on the internal organs. In one he excised the spleen and pancreas of a living dog with normal digestion, keeping the animal alive for some time, and then observed that the dog developed an extreme thirst as well as polyuria (the excretion of large volumes of urine). Brunner was able to keep dogs alive even after the removal of the pancreas; thus he did not believe the organ was necessary for digestion. Brunner's and Peyer's work was important in refining the theories on digestion of Franciscus Sylvius and Regnier de Graaf.

Anton Nuck. Sialographia et Ductuum Aquosorum Anatome Nova ... Leiden: Apud Jordanum Luchtmans, 1695.

This text by Anton Nuck, recently acquired by The Lilly Library, was foundational in establishing experimental techniques for understanding the glands and the lymphatics. Nuck used a technique similar to that used by Frederik Ruysch, injecting colored markers into salivary glands via not only their ducts, but also through their blood vessels. He called this method for studying the glands "sialographia" (sialography).

Nuck was yet another famous anatomist and physiologist to receive his degree from the University of Leiden. He was widely known as an expert on teeth, eyes, and ears, but his most important work was his investigation of the lymphatics and the glands.

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