When Belgian scientists last month discovered a new body part—a ligament just behind the knee—many people were skeptical. Was it really new? Was this some conspiracy to sell new knee surgeries? How could anatomists have missed something so obvious for so long? But Bill Hayes at the New York Times thought of Andreas Vesalius, the 16th-century scientist who was the first to study anatomy based on actual human corpses. Today, he's revered as the father of anatomy, but at the time he was controversial—and he didn't get everything right.
"Open up a human body, and you will be very surprised by what you see," writes Hayes, who has participated in such dissections. "Nothing is perfectly clean and clear as anatomical illustrations suggest. The body is murky." Muscles aren't bunched into neat groups, and the point where it becomes tendon or meets a ligament isn't always clear. "What’s more, aging, injury, disease and scarring change things internally," making every body unique. The body still holds mystery today, as it did for Vesalius. "May his fellow scientists in Belgium take this to heart." Click for the full column.