A portrait of Aristotle as an anatomist: Historical article

Enrico Crivellato, Domenico Ribatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aristotle is principally known as a theoretical philosopher and logician but he was also an eminent natural scientist. In particular, he should be considered probably the first anatomist in the modern sense of this term and the originator of anatomy as a special branch of knowledge. Although it seems certain that he did not perform dissections of human adult cadavers, he examined human fetal material and, above all, made systematic analysis of animal bodies. His contribution to comparative anatomy, as well as to human anatomy, was enormous. He founded the anatomical discipline on precise descriptive and scientific ground. He also coined a series of technical terms, which are still in use in the modern nomenclature. His observational skill was astounding. Although many of his physiological concepts turned out to be wrong, still his structural description of organs and body parts was often first-rank. The present study will chiefly focus on Aristotle's anatomical work and will provide only essential mention of his complex physiological and philosophical doctrine. The main purpose of this article is indeed to offer to today's anatomists a systematic account of the extraordinary achievements of this great pioneer of our discipline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-485
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Anatomy
  • Aristotle
  • History

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy


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