The pedagogical value of autopsy
Knowledge of human anatomy was acquired through dissections of the human body that may have begun as long as 4000 years ago, in Babylonian times. Later documentation was in Egyptian times (3000 BC-1600 BC), as exemplified with the Ebers and other papyri. Around 300 BC, the Greek physician, Herophilus (335-280 BC), wrote a treatise on human anatomy and Erasistratus (304-250 BC), his student and colleague at the medical school of Alexandria, produced the first description, albeit brief, of liver cirrhosis observing that the liver of a man who died with anasarca (“hydrops”) was “as hard as a rock”, contrasting it with the soft consistency of the liver of another man who died from the bite of a poisonous snake. This description is evidence of Erasistratus’s ability, based on observation, to correlate the diseased organ with the consequence of its involvement and may be the first example of a clinicopathological correlation.
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