Justification of Anatomical Practice in Jessenius’s Prague Anatomy

in Early Science and Medicine
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The physician and philosopher Johannes Jessenius (1565-1621), an enthusiastic anatomist in Wittenberg, often had to defend his anatomical practices against Lutheran orthodoxy, as is apparent from the invitations he wrote concerning his dissections. His most systematic defence can be found in the introduction to his description of the dissection performed in Prague in 1600, where he provides three different strategies for the justification of anatomical research. The first method traditionally builds on the use of the ancient dictum ‘know thyself;’ the second strategy is based on teleology, which Jessenius adopted from Vesalius’ work; and the final method is derived from the philosophical tradition of the Renaissance. Jessenius makes use of the concept of the dignity of man in order to support the dignity of anatomical practice. The fundamental meaning of the philosophical framework of Jessenius’s approach emerges from the comparison with both Andreas Vesalius, whose Fabric was one model for Jessenius’s anatomical work, and with the speech delivered by Adamus Zaluzanius a Zaluzaniis prior to Jessenius’s Prague anatomical performance.

Early Science and Medicine

A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period




 Stanislav Sousedík, “Jan Jesenský as the Ideologist of the Bohemian Estates’ Revolt,” Acta Comeniana, 11 (1995), 13-24.


 For selected documents, see Pick, Joh. Jessenius de Magna Jessen, 271-8. On the so-called doctores bullati, see A History of the University in Europe: Vol. 2, Universities in Early Modern Europe (1500–1800), ed. Hilde de Ridder-Symoens (Cambridge, 1996),183. Doctores bullati were not considered equals by their academic colleagues. The term can be treated as similar to the modern term doctor honoris causa.


 Kaiser and Völker, Ars medica Vitebergensis, 22-3. Apart from Hieronymus Nymann, who has already been mentioned above, Andreas Schato (1539-1603) also taught medicine – he was originally a natural philosopher; and further Ernst Hettenbach (1552-1616), who ­graduated in medicine as late as in 1591. See László Ruttkay, “Jessenius als Professor in Wittenberg. Zum 350. Todesjahr von Jessenius,” Orvostörténeti közlemények. Commutationes de historia artis medicinae, 62/63 (1971), 13-55, 32.


 Cf. Borovanský, “Vzpomínka na Jessenia,” 19. Jessenius also later edited Vesalius’s criticism of Fallopius, see: Andreas Vesalius, Andreae Vesaliianatomicarum Gabrielis Fallopii observationum examen. Magni, humani corporis fabricae, operis appendix.Jessenii cura in publicum reducta (Hanover, 1609).


 See Borovanský, “Vzpomínka na Jessenia,” 19; cf. Kachlík et al., “A Biographical Sketch,” 152.


 Cf. Ruttkay, “Jessenius,” 37.


 Schupbach, The Paradox, 66. Jessenius enumerates anatomists preceding himself in the speech Johannes Jessenius a Jessen, Decanus collegii medici in academia Wiebergensi benevolo lectori (Wittenberg, 1600). Cf. Pick, Joh. Jessenius, 87.


 Schupbach, The Paradox, 34.


 Schupbach, The Paradox, 66. Jessenius’s predecessor Salomon Alberti also held the bipartite doctrine, though Schupbach does not mention him. See Salomon Alberti, Historia plerarunque partium,A8v.


 Schupbach, The Paradox, 32.


 Sandra Plastina, “Concordia discors: Aristotelismus und Platonismus in der Philosophie des Francesco Piccolomini,” in Das Ende des Hermetismus, Historische Kritik und Neue Naturphilosophie in der Spätrenaissance, ed. Martin Mulsow (Tübingen, 2002), 213-34, 217. Jessenius also accepted Piccolomini’s project of ‘concord philosophy,’ which was derived from Mirandola’s philosophical efforts. See Nejeschleba, “Johannes Jessenius, Between Plagiarism,” 367.


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