Juno, the Transparent Woman, and #WomensHistoryMonth

In thanks to Linda Shusterman for donating Juno’s “pussy-hat”!

Juno is sporting her “pussy-hat” in celebration of #WomensHistoryMonth!

We have written before about our wonderful “greeter,” Juno, the transparent anatomical model. She has become a mainstay here, but Juno is a well-traveled woman! In the 1920s, the Deutsches-Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany, created a fully operable model of the human body, depicting “the human body as a machine.” Despite becoming part of East Germany after WWII, the museum continued to make these models and some of the employees managed to leave East for West, helping to create the Köln Krankenhaus Museum. It was here that Juno was “born”; Franz Tschaikart of Cologne, Germany, crafted her on commission from the original German Hygiene Museum.

Jim Edmonson, curator, inspecting Juno

In 1950, a friend of the Cleveland Health Education Museum paid $15,000 to bring Juno to Cleveland. She first appeared in public on November 13, 1950, and a contest was held to name her. ‘Juno’ took her name from the Roman queen goddess of women–and dutifully helped explain the female body to museum goers until the health museum closed in 2007. In 2011, Juno moved to her present home in the Dittrick’s museum collection after being long entombed in her original packing crate. As the first transparent woman made in West Germany after the war, she has been–and remains–a kind of ambassador.

Sadly, CHEM (later known as HealthSpace Cleveland) closed in 2006 and a vestige of its exhibits and staff came over to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 2007. There they now now offer programming and exhibits to help understand the physiology and frailty of the human body, the sources of disease and the grounding of wellness.

Our Juno greets visitors as they enter, standing as a testament to transparent pedagogy–and, in her new hat, proving that being partly “invisible” can’t keep her from making a statement. This hat was worn by a friend of the museum at the #WomensMarch in DC, and donated here as an artifact of a profoundly historic moment in US history.

Interested in Juno and her male counterparts? Take a look at the Wellcome’s Object of the Month. You might also enjoy Klaus Vogel’s article: “The Transparent Man – Some comments on the history of a symbol,” in Robert Bud, et al, Manifesting Medicine: Bodies and Machines [Artefacts, Studies in the History of Science and Technology , Vol 1], Amsterdam, the Netherlands : Harwood Academic, 1999.

[1] http://blog.wellcomecollection.org/2013/12/03/object-of-the-month-the-transparent-woman/–accessed 11 December 2013

[2] www.dhmd.de/fileadmin/user_upload/uploads_drei/pressematerial/Permanent_Exhibition.pdf – accessed 30 August 2013.

Paper Woman: Auzoux’s Anatomical Models

Dittrick Museum, photographed by Laura Travis

Problems of Decay for 19th c. Anatomy:
Imagine that you are an anatomy student in the 19th century. Preservation techniques for corpses were not very advanced–mostly this consisted in keeping the body as cool as possible. Painstaking study took time, but tissue decomposed so rapidly that you could barely discern one organ, structure, or bone from another. To make things more complicated, bodies were not easy to come by, and sometimes anatomists resorted to resurrection men who “borrowed” from graves–or worse  (see the post on the Burke and Hare murders). What was a student to do?

In the late 1820s, Louis Thomas Jerôme Auzoux (1797-1880) began working on a solution.  As a physician, Auzoux knew only too well the difficulty of studying anatomy directly from a human cadaver and began manufacturing anatomical figures from  papier-mâché, a combination of cork and clay as well as paper and glue. This was a true innovation–earlier models were made from wax, and though incredibly (even hauntingly) lifelike, they were expensive to produce. Affected by temperature, the wax also deformed if handled too much. Anatomy teachers and students could use the durable papier-mâché model over and over at a fraction of the cost [1].

Paper’ People with Removable Parts:
The models incorporated virtually every anatomical feature and could be disassembled or “dissected” methodically at leisure. The individually numbered parts, all painted to resemble actual human anatomy, were keyed to an accompanying chart, so the student could positively identify and name each structure, muscle, bone, and organ. The Whipple Museum at the University of Cambridge has a number of these models–test your anatomy knowledge with their interactive body jigsaw!

Auzoux referred to instruction using his figures as Anatomie clastique (from the Greek Klastos: broken in pieces):

Dittrick Museum, photographed by Laura Travis

“…in one single course, with the help of the Anatomie clastique, we will show you the organs and their functions. Our descriptions will be short; we will place the organ itself before your eyes, and better than with anything that we could say, you will thus appreciate the situation, the form, the color and the connections.” (Leçons élémentaires d’anatomie et de physiologie, Paris 1839).

Medical students could study Auzoux models carefully in detail before embarking upon a human dissection, and secondary school students studied Auzoux models in lieu of performing actual dissections. It was a tidy, simple, and useful process that allowed the student to really understand the anatomical parts before tackling the whole.

On Display at the Dittrick:
The Auzoux model on display at the Dittrick Museum, donated by Dr. Don Blaufox, is a female figure dating from around 1850. Auzoux first made a full size male figure around 1830 composed of over 125 separate parts, with over 1100 numbered anatomical details. He later branched out to make models of individual anatomical structures (i.e. – the eye, or the female reproductive system), veterinary figures, and biological and botanical models. Compare them, in their size and application, to the ivory anatomical models of earlier centuries (also on display at the Dittrick Museum). Auzoux’s models became popular for teaching anatomy across the world and transformed the way many studied anatomy in the nineteenth century.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.


[1] “Dr. Auzoux’s papier-mâché models” Whipple Collection, University of Cambridge: http://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/whipple/explore/models/drauzouxsmodels/