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The beauty of anatomy. 1/5.

  • Rutherford, Adam.
  • Videos

About this work


In this five part series, Dr Adam Rutherford investigates the close relationship between discoveries in anatomy and the works of art that illustrate them. Adam begins by looking at the work of second century Roman anatomist Claudius Galen. Galen’s teachings dominated medicine for more than 1,500 years after his death. Best known for his theories on the four humours, Galen’s understanding of the body was rooted in the idea of balance; between body, mind, lifestyle and environment. Dissecting human bodies was banned under Roman rule; Galen’s anatomical knowledge was therefore gleaned from animals. His works were not illustrated, but later gave rise to a host of artist’s interpretations. At Lambeth Palace, Adam views a medieval Book of Hours dating from 1498. Its anatomical illustrations demonstrate a Galenic influence, linking heavenly bodies to anatomical structures. Adam observes medical students carrying out dissections in the lab. The word ‘autopsy’ means to see for yourself – the message Galen and his successors aimed to instil in their students. In the mid-15th century the fall of Constantinople enabled Galenic texts to flow into Europe for the first time. By then, public dissections of human corpses were popular annual events in Bologna. Meanwhile in Florence, Leonardo da Vinci realised Galen’s ambition to dissect human bodies. Adam travels to Windsor Castle to view some of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings and illustrations, now owned by the Royal family. Head of Prints and Drawings, Martin Clayton, highlights the extraordinary accuracy of Leonardo’s work, drawn entirely from observation. Galen and Leonardo were united in their view of the human body as a divine creation and a microcosm of the natural world. Finally, Adam visits the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova In Florence, where Leonardo carried out his dissections.


UK : BBC 4, 2014.

Physical description

1 DVD (30 min.) : sound, color, PAL


Broadcast on 13 August 2014.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Michael Waterhouse; Tern Television Productions for BBC

Copyright note

Tern Television Productions Ltd. 2014



  • English

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