Coiter made several important contributions to the study of human anatomy, and was the first to elevate comparative anatomy to the rank of an independent branch of biology. His Externarum et internarum principalium humani corporis partium tabulae is a collection of ten short works, among which are the first monograph on the ear (De auditus instrumento); the earliest study of the growth of the skeleton as a whole in the human fetus (Ossium tum humani foetus . . .); the first descriptions of the spinal ganglia and musculus corrugator supercilii (in Observationum anatomicarum chirurgicarumque miscellanea); and Coiter's epochal (although unillustrated) investigation of the development of the chick in ovo (De ovorum gallinaceorum generationis. . .), based upon observations made over twenty successive days. This last was the first published study of chick embryo development based upon direct observation since the three-period description (after three, ten and twenty days of incubation) given by Aristotle in his Historia animalium two thousand years before.
Coiter was one of the first physicians to draw the illustrations for his own publications, and to take credit for them in print. It is believed that Vesalius may have done some of the simpler illustrations for the Fabrica; however, none of the Fabrica images are signed, and questions concerning their authorship have led to centuries of speculation and debate. Coiter's illustrations of the adult skeleton and skull, after Vesalius, are superior in anatomical detail; and his sketches of fetal skeletons are original. English translation with parallel Latin text and biographical introductions as Opuscula Selecta Neerlandicorum de Arte Medica XVIII (Amsterdam: Sumptibus Societatis, 1955). See No. 284.
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