Anatomical Theaters


Since historical occasions, the first approach to train and study anatomy have been to dissect human cadavers. Generations of surgeons have discovered and mastered the craft, first by watching reside surgical procedures, after which working towards particular expertise akin to suturing on animals. The usual follow in medical colleges is to face some ft away from the working desk, whereas ensuring to not get in the best way of the surgeons, the assistants and the devices. Some schools and establishments have particular statement decks, however with the appearance of cameras it isn’t wanted to be current contained in the working theater anymore. College students can watch a surgical procedure on a display screen from the classroom.

The Agnew Clinic by American artist Thomas Eakins, 1889.

Many Renaissance-era universities had specifically constructed working rooms with galleries for the scholars to look at the motion from. These have been referred to as anatomical theaters. On the heart of the theater stood the working desk, the place the surgeons carried out. Surrounding this desk have been a number of tiers of seating like in a Roman amphitheater. From these advantageous positions, observers might get view of the proceedings.

Certainly, some surgeons appeared to revel within the showmanship facet of their work. Scottish surgeon Robert Liston (1794–1847) would typically clench the bloody knife along with his tooth to free his arms. Paradoxically, Liston was among the many first to push for cleanliness and hygiene within the working room, and would at all times wash his arms previous to an operation.

The primary anatomical theaters arose in Italy within the fifteenth century to satisfy the rising calls for of educating drugs and the rising variety of medical college students. Alexander Benedetti describes an anatomical theater for the primary time in print in 1493:

A brief theatre needs to be established in a sizeable and well-ventilated place with seats round it, and of such a measurement as to carry various spectators in order that the dissectors is probably not disturbed by the gang. These needs to be expert males who’ve carried out a number of dissections. Seating should be allotted so as of rank. There should then be one Praefectus to keep watch over all the things and to place folks of their locations. There should be guards to restrain the keen public because it enters. Two dependable stewards needs to be chosen to make the required funds from the cash that’s collected.

In these days dissections have been few and much between. The follow was completely regulated by the church with solely a handful of dissections allowed to be carried out annually. Frederick II (1194–1250), the Holy Roman emperor, dominated that anybody learning to be a doctor or a surgeon should attend a human dissection, which might be held at least each 5 years. There was additionally a scarcity of cadavers, so many anatomists needed to resort to unlawful means akin to grave robbing, physique snatching, and even homicide.

The anatomical theater in Padua.

The oldest everlasting anatomical theater in Padua, Italy. Photograph: Kalibos/Wikimedia Commons

Early anatomical theaters have been thus non permanent buildings typically erected exterior the grounds of the college, as a result of it was imprudent to counsel everlasting lodging for public dissections. The primary everlasting anatomical theater was constructed on the College of Padua, in Northern Italy, in 1594. Its institution was one of the vital necessary achievements in medical science throughout the sixteenth century, for it positioned anatomy on the basis of medical research.

The anatomical theater of Padua held about 250 spectators in six concentric galleries. The primary row was reserved for Professors of Anatomy, the Rectors of the Metropolis and of the College, the Councilors and members of the Medical Faculty and representatives of the Venetian the Aristocracy. The second and third rows have been reserved for college students. The fourth, fifth and sixth rows have been for different spectators. There was no seating, so observers needed to stand to look at the dissection of human cadavers—largely executed criminals or deceased hospital sufferers.

The anatomical theater in Padua.

The anatomical theater in Padua. Photograph: Lanoyta/Wikimedia Commons

A full dissection generally stretched to 2 weeks. To entertain guests throughout breaks between classes, musicians have been introduced in and scented candles have been lighted to suppress the stench. Dissections have been additionally carried out within the colder months to delay putrefaction.

The theater was in use till 1872, when the medical college was transferred to St. Mattia’s former convent. The theater stays a matter of delight for the College and remains to be preserved.

Solely three years after the development of the anatomical theater in Padua, the second everlasting theatre was inbuilt Leiden in Holland in 1597, on the initiative of Pieter Pauw, professor of anatomy at Leiden College. Just like the one in Padua, the Leyden theater had six galleries, however wider, flatter and extra spacious than the theater in Padua. Public dissections came about in winter for college students and surgeons, in addition to for curious members of the general public for a charge. In summer season, the theater was used to show numerous curiosities together with human and animal skeletons, historical Egyptian mummies and Roman antiquities, and lots of different uncommon objects from totally different elements of the world. Due to these exhibitions, the theater turned a big vacationer attraction. The theatre lastly closed in 1821 when the division of anatomy was transferred to a brand new constructing.

The anatomical theater in Leiden.

The anatomical theater in Leiden. Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

One other necessary anatomical theater of the time was inbuilt London in 1636 on the Barber Surgeons’ Corridor. It was comparable in measurement and form to the theater in Padua, however had 4 rows of seats as an alternative of six. The seats have been carved and the partitions have been adorned with the indicators of the Zodiac. There have been niches and brackets for skeletons and different anatomical preparations together with the skeleton of an ostrich, and a bust of King Charles I. Public dissections have been like grand exhibits, lasting three days and ending with a feast.

One of many best anatomical theaters was in Bologna, Italy. It was constructed over a interval of 12 years finishing in 1637, and was positioned within the Palace of the Archiginnasio, the primary unified seat of the College of Bologna. It had partitions of exquisitely carved fir wooden, a richly carved ceiling of cedar wooden and an imposing professorial chair, set ten ft above the ground stage. This was surmounted by-a cover bearing the seated determine of a girl representing Anatomy and a small cupid standing close by holding a femur in his hand. For 300 years the theater was an object of reverence and admiration amongst guests. It was utterly destroyed throughout the Second World Conflict. After the conflict, the theater was rebuilt with exemplary philological rigor, utilizing all the unique items recovered among the many rubble of the constructing.

The anatomical theater in Bologna

The anatomical theater in Bologna. Photograph: Fotokon | Dreamstime.com

The anatomical theater in Bologna

The anatomical theater in Bologna. Photograph: Joaquin Ossorio Castillo | Dreamstime.com

The anatomical theater in Bologna

The anatomical theater in Bologna. Photograph: Joaquin Ossorio Castillo | Dreamstime.com

By the early twentieth century, anatomical theaters had grow to be out of date. With the usage of anesthetics, it was not essential to conduct surgical procedures within the quickest attainable time, and surgeons realized that slower, meticulous incisions produced extra profitable outcomes. But it surely was the germ concept that introduced dying to the anatomical theater. The concept that spectators and docs themselves may carry germs into the surgical area led to tighter management on the working area, finally inflicting the transformation of the old school working theater into the sterile setting that trendy working rooms are.

References:
# William Brockbank, Previous Anatomical Theatres And What Took Place Therein, National Institutes of Health
# Rebecca Rego Barry, Contained in the Working Theater: Early Surgical procedure as Spectacle, Jstor 
# Alison Abbott, Hidden treasures: Padua’s anatomy theatre, Nature



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