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Orang-Outang, Sive Homo Sylvestris: or, the Anatomy of a Pygmie Compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape, and a Man isan outstanding work of the English anatomist and naturalist Edward Tyson, written at the end of the XVII century. Tyson's work on anatomy of an ape, or, as he called this anthropoid, pygmy, was reprinted many times and made its author the founder of primatology. For the first time and with a full scientific basis, the naturalist described the anatomical connection between a monkey and a human, as well as wrote about an intermediate position of this pygmy between a human and the the animal world. Edward Tyson gave a detailed comparative description of the morphological structure of an orangutan, a Negro, and a European of all parts of the skeleton, muscles, and skin. It should be noted that the term В“orangutanВ”, or В“person of the forestВ”, was taken by Tyson for describing chimpanzees because in those days, chimpanzees and orangutans were regarded as the representatives of the same species of tailless apes (Williams, 2008). It was probably due to the fact that only young individuals of these anthropoids were brought to Europe, and at a young age they show great similarity between them. Tyson termed the studied example of a chimpanzee a В“pygmie,В” wanting to emphasize its specific difference from the much larger Malaysian orangutan. This, of course, was a considerable Tyson's merit as for most of the XVIII century the scientists were confused about these major African and Asian anthropoids. Chimpanzees were often called black orangutans, or Pongo, while Malaysian orangutans were called red ones. This essay aims at examining Tyson's study of the anatomy of a pygmy and his use of sources, such as the researches of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and Vesalius.

Edward Tyson's research

According to Edward Tyson, the studied creature is neither a human nor an ordinary monkey, but an anthropoid or a form of an animal between the two. So, in the chain of creatures, as an intermediate between an ape and a human, he placed a pygmy. The exclusively sustained term "four-handed" has originated from Tyson. Although a pygmy was a biped or two-legged anthropoid, it referred to quadruped creatures. The scientist wanted to emphasize the unusual nature of pygmies, or chimpanzees, in comparison with all other animals which were then called four-legged. He presented forty-eight signs of the similarity of an anthropoid with a human and thirty-four differences, which unite this creature with other apes (Tyson, 1975).

According to Tyson, the similar structure of all organ systems and the sense organs are the most important characteristics that make pigmies resemble people. The forehead is larger and the chin is shorter, in comparison with other animals; the brain and all its parts are formed like a brain of a human; the cranium is bigger than the apesВ’. They have nails, not claws; the fingers are thicker. The pigmies walk straight. The buttocks are larger than the other apesВ’; the shoulders and breast are more spread; the heels are longer. The intestine and colon are longer; unlike animals, they have cecum.The liver is entire, not divided into parts. The pancreas, spleen, biliary vessels, and the number of the lobes of the lungs are also the same as humansВ’. The shape of the teeth and bones resemble human. There are many other similarities, but there are also differences between a man and a pygmy, for example, in the height, length of the toes, palm of a hand, flatness of nose, the size of shoulders and thigh. The gall-bladder and bladder of urine are longer than that of people. Humans brain furrow, frontal and temporal lobes are more strongly developed, and so on (Tyson, 1975).

The development of knowledge about the anthropoids

The first information about the monkeys, judging by their sculptural images and myths, dates back to the times of antiquity. Monkeys served as the subject of hunting, trade, and entertainment. In the eyes of ancient people, the monkeys were similar to humans. However, in the descriptions of ancient writers, it is difficult to find any information on the biology of monkeys. Tyson attached four essays, which are related to the ancientsВ’ knowledge of pygmies, cynocephali, and satyrs. Big sections of the book are the quotations of antique works in Latin concerning the anatomy, behavior, and socialization of a pygmy. However, Tyson considered a lot of ancient works as fictional myths and false legends. At the same time, he relied on the works of such philosophers and scientists like Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and Vesalius.

Edward Tyson cited Aristotle, who was the first who spoke about the similarity of humans and apes, comparing the shapes of ears, nostrils, eyelashes, teeth, arms, and so on. Although the philosopher considered monkeys less beautiful than horses, he thought that they look more like humans. According to Aristotle, the main differences between humans and apes are the possession of big brain, articulated speech, flattened chest, fixed pineal, the structure of the shoulder and hip, and eye coloration. In addition, a human is a biped creature in comparison with an ape (Tyson, 1975). Of course, Aristotle was far from the ideas of evolution, and he saw the resemblance of organs only in the variations of the original form. Aristotle carried out the synthesis of natural philosophy and doctrine of a human. He examined the role of the functional parts of the body, classified them, and introduced the classification of living things in the form of a ladder, that is the hierarchy of the complexity of their organization. The top of the ladder, according to Aristotle, is a human. Aristotle classified all animals as the ones with blood and without blood. He also described the three types of monkeys: a monkey with a tail, such as mangabey, a monkey without a tail, such as macaques, and cynocephali, or dog-headed, such as baboons. Aristotle had also noted that baboons had long fangs.


Pliny the Elder, a Roman scientist and writer, was the next after Aristotle, who wrote a detailed work about the monkeys, which was included in his famous Natural History. Edward Tyson also used Pliny's work as a source for his book. Pliny included the AristotelВ’s classification, some of his own observations, and all that was written about these extraordinary creatures before him. As in all times there are storytellers among writers, who like to embellish, the information collected by Pliny included a lot of fiction and fables. Truth and fiction about the monkeys were entwined in Pliny's stories. Pliny wrote that all existing monkeys were very close to the animals and, at the same time, in many ways similar to humans. According to Pliny, as well as Aristotle, they differed from each other by their tails. But people in the time of Pliny invented many false stories about monkeys; for example, that they were seen playing chess. Surprisingly cunning and agile; if those creatures saw a hunter going ahead, they imitated him in every way to the last movement. It was also written by Pliny that there were people, who had only two small holes instead of noses, and very long hands. He also wrote that satyrs lived in the western mountains of India. These creatures were running around on all four legs, but they could walk on their two, just as a human, and it was impossible to catch them (Tyson, 1975). Despite of the ridiculousness of such stories, the researchers learned some important scientific information. Later, the researchers learned that creatures with the holes instead of noses were orangutans, in the creatures that imitated hunters they understood baboons, and in satyrs they saw gibbons.

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Very valuable information about the structure of the body of monkeys can be found in the works of the famous in antiquity anatomist, surgeon, and physiologist Claudius Galen. He did not only study the tailless Barbary monkeys, mainly macaques, but also baboons. Galen's human anatomy was largely based on the monkey material, as he believed that monkeys were the ridiculous copies of people. Concerning the morphological and anatomical features of apes Galen wrote, for example, that their feet had heels, and a thumb on the front limb was underdeveloped. He wrote that a humerus was connected with a scapula not as in humans, in which a glenoid cavity was less deep and lateral. According to Galen, the gluteal muscles of monkeys were absolutely and relatively smaller than that of people; the temporal chewing muscles of monkeys were less developed than those of pigs, bears, and other studied mammals. However, he noted that a monkey, often taking vertical position, can be regarded as biped. In his Anatomical Procedures Galen argued that of all the living beings, the most similar to human was a monkey due to the similarities in entrails, muscles, arteries, nerves, as well as in the form of bones. Because of this, it received the possibility to walk on two legs and use the front legs as hands. In his work On the Use of the Parts of the Human Body Galen wrote that of all living creatures only a human had hands, the organs that befit mainly a reasonable being (Tyson, 1975). Not only Edward Tyson but even modern physicians and primatologists often cite Galen's words of the great anatomical similarity between apes and humans.

However, the classic work of Andreas Vesalius On the Structure of the Human Body showed that Galen made a lot of errors in the description of human anatomy. He did not know about the existence of a muscle that opposed a thumb, gave an incorrect description of a wrist, heart, lungs, liver, hollow and azygos veins, several nerves, sacral bone, cecum, and so on (Tyson, 1975). These mistakes could occur as a result of the autopsy of the monkeys' bodies and the transfer of the received data on humans. So, he was firmly convinced that the monkeys are the copies of people.

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The process of the formation of a human from an ape is one of the most important links in the theory of evolution which gives a deep materialistic support for this important biological problem. The relationship between humans and apes is confirmed by the whole set of knowledge about the primates. People are known as the closest beings to chimpanzees. Yet, in Orang-Outang, Sive Homo Sylvestris: or, the Anatomy of a Pygmie Compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape, and a Man Edward Tyson manifested that having similarity with humans does not mean being a human. In his work, famous anatomist not only provided the similarities and differences in the anatomy and behavior between people and chimpanzees, which he called orangutans or pygmies, but also used the works of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and Vesalius to support his research. In spite of many inaccuracies, wrong facts, or even ancient tales about monkeys, Edward Tyson, referring to famous anatomists, scientists, and philosophers, has written many interesting facts about the morphological and anatomical features of apes and their comparison with humans.

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