Historical continuity in the methodology of modern medical science: Leonardo leads the way.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Early modern medical science did not arise ex nihilo, but was the culmination of a long history stretching back through the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, Byzantium and Roman times, into Greek Antiquity. The long interval between Aristotle and Galen and Harvey and Descartes was punctuated by outstanding visionaries, including Leonardo, the ultimate Renaissance man. His attitude and mindset were based on Aristotelian pursuit of empirical fact and rational thought. He declared himself to be a "man without letters" to underscore his disdain for those whose culture was only mnemonics and philosophical inferences from authoritative books. Leonardo read the Book of Nature with the immense curiosity of the pioneering scientist, ushering in the methodology of modern medical science with help from forerunners. He left no publications, but extensive personal Notebooks: on his scientific research, hydrodynamics, physiological anatomy, etc. Apparently, numerous successors availed themselves of his methodologies and insights, albeit without attribution. In his Notebooks, disordered and fragmentary, Leonardo manifests the exactitude of the engineer and scientist, the spontaneous freshness of one speaking of what he has at heart and that he knows well. His style is unrefined, but intensely personal, rich with emotion and, sometimes, poetic. Leonardo, the visionary anatomist, strived consistently not merely to imitate nature by depicting body structures, but to perceive through analysis and simulations the intimate physiologic processes; i.e., the biomechanics underlying the workings of all bodily organs and components, even the mysterious beating heart. It is fitting to regard him as the first modern medical scientist.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pasipoularides, A

Published Date

  • February 1, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 171 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 103 - 115

PubMed ID

  • 24360160

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1874-1754

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.11.133


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Netherlands