Not a few sunbathers on the beaches of Zákynthos are keen students of the opposite sex’s anatomy. None, however, is as studiously keen as Andreas Vesalius (1514–64), the Renaissance father of anatomy, in whose honour a statue minus his skin stands by the sea just north of Solomos Square in Zákynthos Town.
Born in Brabant, Vesalius studied in Paris, where he edited the 2nd century AD anatomical works of Galen, the Greek physician to the gladiators and Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Vesalius went on to the University of Padua, and developed it into the leading school of anatomy in Europe, publishing in 1543 his milestone De humani corporis fabrica, the first thorough and original study of the human body since Galen.
In 1555 Vesalius became the personal physician to Philip II of Spain, but on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his ship was wrecked at Laganás Bay. He was already terribly ill, perhaps from scurvy, and died not long after he arrived; he was buried at the earthquake-ruined Franciscan monastery at Faneró, where later travellers saw his tombstone, until it was looted during a Turkish raid in 1571.
Image by Stenter, Creative COmmons