The Body & the Pen: Finding Synthesis between Art & Medicine

By Walter E., Tiffany M., Colin N., and Paige Z.
During the early modern period in England, science and art came together to compare the bodies of animals and humans. Discoveries from vivisections and dissections, which later shaped scientific drawings and textual descriptions, revealed that human and animal anatomies were more similar than previously believed. These early artistic displays of scientific examinations were important to the present and future, as those recordings set up a foundation on which later scientists could refer when documenting accurate representations of their work. Scientists of the time, including Edward Tyson, a founder of comparative anatomy, set the stage for further scientific and artistic blending for later scientists.


Until this point, medical practice was rooted in the Humoral Theory, a model utilized by Galen. The belief was that the human body was comprised of four parts (or humors): Blood, Phlegm, and Black and Yellow bile. Humors allowed medical surgeons like William Harvey and Edward Tyson to explain how the lungs and circulatory system operated, among other bodily functions. Yet continued use of vivisection and dissection began raising questions about the accuracy of previous theories; and scientists began to pinpoint the similarities and differences among human and animal biology, human and animal anatomy, and the degree to which humans could use body fluids and humors differentiate themselves and claim natural superiority. Though, while these methods of research seem antiquated in the 21st century, they were essential to the advancement of modern medicine and social advancements due to the aforementioned answers unveiled by these examinations. While science and art are often thought to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, with science as absolute thoughts and art showing free-thinking creativity, we have found a means of synthesizing of the two. In our research we have concluded that art and science cannot be treated as separate entities but instead that one lends to the other in that each helped progress the other to become more accurate in both rendering and execution.

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About MGN

Miranda Garno Nesler is a specialist in early material culture, gender, textuality, and animal studies. View all posts by MGN

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