Leonardo Da Vinci is famous as a painter, sculptor and inventor. In reality he was so much more, with the range of topics in his arsenal of knowledge being anatomy, zoology, botany, geology, optics, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics to name a few. He did play a large role in the development of knowledge about anatomy and the human body. He was one of the greatest anatomists of his time, although unrecognized for it during his lifetime.
Anatomical studies were primarily for the purpose of better depiction of the human body and presumably went no further than a study of the superficial structures. Da Vinci’s acquaintance with anatomy in the beginning would be that of the artist, and it must be remembered that his fame was gained primarily as an artist. Leonardo was different from others of his time not because he was the man who could do all but because of the distances to which he pursued many interests and thereby the contributions which he was sometimes able to make. While it is doubtful that Leonardo ever thought of himself as an anatomist, and certainly he never acquired a discipline in that study, yet it is noteworthy that he pushed his investigation far beyond the point of artistic usefulness; and it is believed that Leonardo thought of these studies as a separate discipline rather than auxiliary to art. (Squeri, 8)
While in Milan, Da Vinci spent a considerable amount of time on a number of dissections of the horse in preparation for a statue. While the bulk of the drawings on the anatomy of the horse are of the surface anatomy, and drawn by Leonardo in the guise of the artist, there are nevertheless some detailed ones illustrating the muscles of the horse's thigh compared to the corresponding muscles of man, suggesting that he was carrying on his studies of the anatomy of the horse and of man simultaneously. (Ochenkowski, 194)
There is question of the conditions under which Leonardo carried on his anatomical studies in Milan and how much dissection material was available to him. Neither of these matters can an answer be given to but it is suggested that he was given opportunities in the Ospedale Maggiore as well as the Collegio dei Nobili Fisici, the chief medical school of the city. (Ochenkowski, 199)
The earliest anatomical drawings by Leonardo are attributed to 1487. On the basis of these drawings certain facts become manifest. It is apparent that his knowledge of anatomy was what he had acquired by reading traditional writers such as Avicenna and Mundinus, by some animal dissection and by surface inspection of the living human. (Morley, 554)
With his return to Florence Leonardo again took up his anatomical studies, and it appears that for the first time he had access to a reasonably large amount of dissection material, obtained at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. As the dates of his drawings indicate, he had further dissection specimens available to him, although whether he during this Florentine period ever became the possessor...