Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences

Living Edition
| Editors: Dana Jalobeanu, Charles T. Wolfe

Dissection in Early Modern Europe

  • Maria Pia DonatoEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20791-9_278-1



Dissection is the dismembering of an animal or human body chiefly for instructional purposes. Although the Latin word sectio referred more broadly to any manual operation of opening up of bodies in order both to demonstrate its structure and to search for the causes of death, in the early modern epoch, its derivative “dissection” progressively came to denote the procedures used for the teaching of anatomy and the means to investigate physiology. At the end of the eighteenth century, standard dictionaries and encyclopedias, like Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopædia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences(1738 edition), defined “dissection” as “the operation of cutting and dividing the parts of an animal body with a knife, scissors, etc., in order to see and consider each of them apart,” while “autopsy” was mainly used in reference to the inspection of cadavers for legal or...

Related Topics

Anatomy Comparative anatomy Medicine Surgery 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique – Institut d’Histoire Moderne et ContemporaineParisFrance

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gideon Manning
    • 1
  1. 1.Early Modern StudiesClaremont Graduate UniversityPasadenaUSA