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July 1993

Explorers: Christopher Columbus and Leonardo da Vinci

Arch Surg. 1993;128(7):725-729. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1993.01420190015002

THE PRACTICE of medicine in western Europe and in the now Americas in 1492 was quite similar—herbal medicine, purging, rudimentary surgery, and reliance on the supernatural. This was the time of the Renaissance, a turning point for Western civilization. The spirit of inquiry, experimentation, and willingness to challenge orthodoxy that characterized the Renaissance is represented by two contemporaries, Christopher Columbus and Leonardo da Vinci. One was an explorer of this planet and the other of the human body. Columbus greatly expanded our knowledge of the world. Leonardo's extensive anatomical dissections initiated the modern study of human biology. The spirit that motivated Christopher Columbus and Leonardo da Vinci is with us today—witness the recent conquest of space and the successful transplantation of tissue from one human to another. The 100th scientific session of the Western Surgical Association was held in San Antonio, Tex, a major center of Spanish colonial influence, and

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