Dried bones are usually studied first by the beginner in anatomy for they are relatively pleasant things to handle and easily preserved. A classmate of mine at the Harvard Medical School, now a distinguished scientist devoting his life to the wetness in the body, owned a skeleton which, to the horror of his chambermaid, dangled over his pillow. No other parts of the dead body could be lived with so familiarly.
It might well be thought that mankind, at the very beginning of historic times, would have learned the anatomy of human bones, for the battlefields about "the cradle of civilization" were sprinkled with them and charnel houses furnished an inexhaustible supply. Really to study them, however, requires a knowledge of musculature, and human dissections were generally forbidden. Besides, for over a thousand years after Christ, the words of Galen on medical and associated matters were accepted practically without question, and Galen, like all men, was fallible. Then, with the revival of other learnings in the Renaissance, came a number of brilliant anatomists, and outstanding was Andreas Vesalius, born in Brussels in 1514. He lived to be fifty, but his anatomical work was pretty well finished in his early thirties. Henry Gray, whose book to English-speaking people is practically synonymous with anatomy, died in his early thirties. Do we really need that extension of life which we are now getting?
Vesalius moved about a good deal but his most famous work was done at the Medical School of Padua which was then several centuries old and is still going strong. The illustrations are such excellent works of art that they have been attributed at times to Michelangelo and Titian. The skeletons as Vesalius shows them remind us that no matter how lifeless bone may appear it is living growing tissue in the body. Add to this that throughout life it is busily engaged in making other tissue. The blood cells are formed in the marrow of bones. When certain blood diseases are suspected, we cut a little disk out of the easily accessible breastbone and under the microscope examine the marrow to see how the cells are forming.