Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest anatomists ever to have lived. He personally dissected more than thirty human corpses to explore every aspect of anatomy and physiology, and recorded his findings in drawings of unparalleled beauty and lucidity. Had he published his researches, Leonardo would have transformed European knowledge of the human body. Sadly at his death his studies remained unpublished and among his personal papers, and were almost unknown (unseen) until around 1900.
Leonardo’s surviving anatomical drawings are preserved in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Professor Abrahams has worked as a collaborator on a new exhibition which will opening on 2nd August at Holyrood Palace. ‘Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man’ will present thirty of his finest sheets of studies, concentrating on his extraordinary campaign of dissection during the winter of 1510-11, when he was reportedly working alongside the professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia.
This was the period that Leonardo came closest to completing his intended anatomical treatise. He was fascinated by the challenge of depicting a complex, layered, three-dimensional and mobile structure – the human body – in a static two-dimensional image, and devised many unique illustrative techniques to achieve his aims. Many of Leonardo’s drawings are strikingly similar to modern medical images, and the exhibition will thus display his studies alongside CT and MRI scans and state-of-the-art computer animations to show how astute and accurate were Leonardo’s researches, and how little the detailed knowledge of human anatomy has changed in 500 years.
Professor Peter Abrahams, Clinical Anatomist from Warwick Medical school and long-time examiner for The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh will show how many new concepts in anatomical artistic design were unique to Leonardo’s work and how these concepts and ideas have now developed into many modalities of modern medical images.
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