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Of the Fisherman’s Net and Skin Pores. Reframing Conceptions of the Skin in Medicine 1572–1714

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Chapter Summary

Between 1572 and 1714, existing conceptions of the skin as being porous were reaffirmed by visual microscopic evidence. In this chapter the author argues that the transition from macroscopic anatomy to microscopic anatomy changed the anatomical views of the skin yet left medical practice in the European context intact. This chapter seeks to investigate the physiology of the skin and thus deepen the history of the body as a changing subject of interpretation and analysis, through comparisons of works by Girolamo Mercuriale to early microscopic findings by such scholars as Nehemiah Grew and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Drawing on Plato's Timaeus, Mercuriale defined the skin as a 'fisherman's net' because of its purpose as a common bond holding together the separate body parts in accordance with Hippocrates. According to Mercuriale, the skin had no other function other than receiving waste materials, as Galen had taught.

Keywords:Antoni van Leeuwenhoek; fisherman's net; Galen; Girolamo Mercuriale; microscopic anatomy; Nehemiah Grew; Plato; skin pores; Timaeus



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