The contribution of Anatomy to human health is centuries in the making

As we approach World Anatomy Day on 15th October, we celebrate anatomical education and research, and the vast history of this medical field which is as important in today’s medicine as it was in the 15th and 16th century.

World Anatomy Day was declared by the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA) to honour Andreas Vaselius, a Belgium physician and author who lived in the 16th century. Vaselius is known as the founder of modern human anatomy, his work pioneered what is considered today as ‘direct observation’ of the cadaver.

“For medical education, there really is no other way to really understand the three-dimensional anatomy of the human body” said A/Prof Quentin Fogg on the importance of cadavers in medical studies.

“At the University of Melbourne, World Anatomy Day is most importantly, a time to acknowledge, inform and honour the enormous contributions body donors and their families make to anatomy and all its related education and research.”

It’s an extraordinary gift, that provides a powerful and positive impact.

The University’s Annual Thanksgiving Commemorative Service, attended by family and friends of our body donors, with anatomy staff and students of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology provides an emotional and heartfelt opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of our donors.

Anatomy has a vast history; and as such, modern anglicised anatomy terminology utilises many unique terms, suffixes, and prefixes derived from Ancient Greek and Latin, along with English and French terms drawn from comparisons to other objects, historical associations, and even the people credited with describing something first.

It has a connection to the art world and The Rennaissance with Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Michelangelo (1475-1564) who are known to have undertaken detailed anatomical dissections at various points in their careers, this education set a new standard in their portrayals of the human figure.

Leonardo da Vinci is considered the most significant artist-anatomist for his studies on the human skull in 1489, using an architect’s technique of three-dimensional forms in plan, section, elevation and perspective view.

Michelangelo’s work in anatomy focused on bones and muscles. His surviving anatomical drawings show a thorough understanding of certain muscles, especially those of the limbs. This enabled him to grasp how the surface and contour of the body changes when the body moves. Knowledge considered crucial for the creation of his renowned nudes.

Every medical specialisation requires anatomy study, you could say it’s the bedrock of all medical practice. Whether you are delivering a baby, injecting an anaesthetic, performing surgery, reading a CT scan-- absolutely anything that is hands on with a patient requires some form of anatomy.

For World Anatomy Day, we celebrate the science and discipline of anatomy, and all who have contributed to its vast history, from its forefathers, through to today’s leaders in anatomy research, education and training here at SBS.

We also acknowledge the incredible work of Rohan Long, curator and custodian of the very special Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology - one of Australia's largest collections of human tissue specimens, animal anatomy specimens, and historical anatomical models located right here with the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Workshops for Professionals

Melbourne Academy of Surgical Anatomy (MASA) is running an education series presented by Associate Professor Quentin Fogg. The Allied Health Advanced Anatomy Workshops focus on the latest clinical research to enhance practice. Learn More