Justification of Anatomical Practice in Jessenius’s Prague Anatomy

In: Early Science and Medicine

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.


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     Stanislav Sousedík“Jan Jesenský as the Ideologist of the Bohemian Estates’ Revolt,” Acta Comeniana11 (1995) 13-24.

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     For selected documents see PickJoh. Jessenius de Magna Jessen271-8. On the so-called doctores bullati see A History of the University in Europe: Vol. 2Universities 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.

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     Kaiser and VölkerArs medica Vitebergensis22-3. 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.

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     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).

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  • 34

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

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     Cf. Ruttkay“Jessenius” 37.

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     SchupbachThe Paradox66. 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.

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     SchupbachThe Paradox34.

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     SchupbachThe Paradox66. Jessenius’s predecessor Salomon Alberti also held the bipartite doctrine though Schupbach does not mention him. See Salomon Alberti Historia plerarunque partiumA8v.

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     SchupbachThe Paradox32.

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     Sandra Plastina“Concordia discors: Aristotelismus und Platonismus in der Philosophie des Francesco Piccolomini,” in Das Ende des HermetismusHistorische 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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