Friday, March 13, 2009

Looking for the Pineal

Under the rubric of saving a good theory from the data, I read that in 1637 Descartes went to the anatomical theater in Leiden to observe a dissection performed by Adriaan van Valkenburt (1581-1650) hoping to see the pineal gland in man. It must have been a great disappointment to him that the professor could not show him the gland and even had to confess that he had never found it in a human subject. Descartes saved his theory by using the fact that the skull was opened some days after the beginning of the dissection. [Lindeboom, Descartes and Medicine, p.37]

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