While we were looking both ways on Monday, the birthday of Andreas Vesalius slipped right by us. Born on December 31st in 1514, I'm sure he wouldn't be too upset that we missed his 493rd birthday by a few days....
In fact, December being the last month of the U.S. tax year, Vesalius' birthday is the same day as that of OHSU's copy of Vesalius' 1555 Fabrica--if by "birthday" we take the day on which the book was donated to the then-University of Oregon Health Sciences Center in 1980. A letter from donor Norman Holter, D.Sc., dated 12/29/80, noted that the book "will be taken from a bank tomorrow morning and mailed by priority mail to arrive the morning of 12/31/80." Pretty cool coincidence, isn't it?
So what is this book anyway, and why all the fuss? There is certainly an enormous amount of information available online (from Northwestern's Vesalius site to the National Library of Medicine's Vesalius site and their Dream Anatomy site to Wikipedia's entry). In 2001, the OHSU copy of the Fabrica was placed on exhibit in the Main Library; images of the brochure are included below. Two years earlier, library cataloger Janet Crum (now Head of Collection Management and Systems at the OHSU Library) had compiled the following list of resources for a presentation on "Vesalius and His Work." These say more about Vesalius than I ever could. Check some of them out for more information.
Andreas Vesalius: man of mystery in life and death.
Hosp Pract (Off Ed). 1986 Feb 15;21(2):199, 202-4, 207 passim.
Benini A, Bonar SK.
Andreas Vesalius 1514-1564.
Spine. 1996 Jun 1;21(11):1388-93.
DeBroe ME, Sacré D, Snelders ED, De Weerdt DL.
The Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) and the kidney.
Am J Nephrol. 1997;17(3-4):252-60.
Faria MA Jr.
The death of Henry II of France.
J Neurosurg. 1992 Dec;77(6):964-9.
The martyrdom of Doctor Andreas Vesalius.
Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1990 Oct;(259):304-11
A consultation between Andreas Vesalius and Ambroise Paré at the deathbed of Henri II, King of France, 15 July 1559.
S Afr Med J. 1991 Sep 7;80(5):245-7.
O'Malley, Charles Donald.
Andreas Vesalius of Brussels, 1514-1564.
Berkeley, University of California Press, 1964.
Surgical and medical devices and their origins. Chapter XIV. Beginnings of modern surgery (Andreas Vesalius).
J Oper Room Res Inst. 1982 Sep;2(9):30-3.
On the Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The bones and cartilages.
N Engl J Med 339:1720, December 3, 1998 Book Review
Tarshis, Jerome, 1936-
Andreas Vesalius : father of modern anatomy.
New York : Dial Press, 1969.