Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). 

“We learned [the bones] by long & tiring observation.  We dared at times to make a bet with each other that we would be blindfolded and no bone could be offered us which we could not identify simply by touch.  This had to be done the more zealously by us who desired to learn as there was a great lack of the assistance of teachers in this part of medicine." 

"I was out walking, looking for bones in the place where on the country highways all those who have been executed are customarily placed, which is to the great convenience of students.  I happened upon a dried cadaver.  The bones were entirely bare, held together by the ligaments alone.  I pulled off the femur, arms & hands.  I brought the legs and arms home on successive trips, leaving the head & chest behind.  Then one night I allowed myself to be shut out of the city at curfew in order to obtain the rest of the skeleton.  I was burning with so great a desire that I was not afraid to snatch in the middle of the night what I so longed for.  The next day I transported the bones home one at a time through another gate of the city & reconstructed the entire skeleton.”

Professor of anatomy at Padua. 

1543  The Structure of the Human Body

microscope – Anton van Leeuwenhoek


William Harvey - theory of epigenesis (reproduction = a form gradually taking shape out of raw material)

late 1600s "pre-formation" theory (reproduction = unfolding)


"All humans were contained in the organs of Adam and Eve.  When their stock is finished, the human race will cease to be."  


1670s, assistant to Leeuwenhoek observes "spermatic animalcules"

"animalculists" see full fetus ["homunculus" “little man”] inside sperm

"While I was examining them all with care, one appeared which was larger than the others and sloughed off the skin in which it had been enclosed, and clearly revealed, free from covering, both its shins, its legs, its breast & two arms.”

"Remarkable, finding such a vast number of little animals in there." 


Comte de Buffon: "the seminal fluids of the male and female are equally active and equally necessary for the purposes of propagation." 


Erasmus Darwin: man larger, therefore "should contribute more toward reproduction of the species.  Therefore the embryo is produced by the male and food by the female." 


Edinburgh prof anatomy Alexander Monro 1726: "the bones of women are frequently incomplete, and always... different from the robust male."


Marie Thiroux d' Arconville translated Monro's Anatomy into French


Samuel Soemmerring: "I was anxious to obtain the body of a woman remarkable not only for her youth and aptitude for procreation, but also for the beauty & harmony of limbs of the kind that the ancients used to ascribe to Venus." 


Anthropologist Paul Broca warned female militancy would create a “perturbance”;

London Anthropological Society 1869 idea of women’s intellectual equality “foolish and mischievous flattery” which would have “a most baneful effect in unsettling society.” 

“The assertions and claims put forward under the term ‘women’s rights’ are a challenge to anthropologists to consider the scientific question of women’s mental, moral, and physical qualities, her nature and normal condition relative to man.”  “Science, in order to be worthy of the name, must deal with practical as well as speculative difficulties, and I know of no subject on which it ought to give a more authoritative decision than upon the claims of women to political power.”

craniology - judging skulls & brain size.

Men’s brains larger

George Romanes: “Seeing that the average brain-weight of women is about five ounces less than that of men, on merely anatomical grounds we should be prepared to expect a marked inferiority of intellectual power in the former.”

BUT proportionate to body, women’s larger

THEREFORE women’s incomplete, like children

"The finer bone structure, the less sharply developed facial features, the childishly round face all clearly show this similarity.  The nerves and blood vessels of women are also as delicate & fine as children and the skin layer of rich fat is childish." 


Women smaller frontal lobes and larger parietal lobes,

BUT later, once parietal lobe linked to intellect, new studies showing women small parietal lobes.

Gustave Le Bon 1879, "In the most intelligent races, as among the Parisians, there are a large number of women whose brains are closer in size to gorillas than to the most developed male brains.  This inferiority is so obvious that no one can contest it for a moment."



women lower than man on evolutionary ladder


Greek idea of "hysteria" –

Victorian era assumption that women’s health always connected to reproductive organs;

1870 "as if the Almighty, in creating the female sex, had taken the uterus and built up a woman around it."


Menstruating is dangerous; not menstruating is dangerous.   


"separate spheres" - women's life options defined in relation to reproductive system

1869: "Mentally, socially, spiritually, woman is more inferior than man.  Woman is to deal with domestic affections, not with philosophies & sciences."