The Dittrick Museum and #ColorOurCollections!

Once again the New York Academy of Medicine has brought us the #ColorOurCollections! From February 6th though 10th, libraries, special collections, archives, and other cultural institutions are sharing coloring content based on collection items. You can view a list of participating institutions here, but for a taste of medical history, including anatomy, dissection, flora, and even early smelting techniques (hey, you have to make medical tools somehow), download the Dittrick Coloring Book!

Better yet, post your creations to Instagram and show off your skill! We may just feature your work on the blog!

HAPPY COLORING!

dittrick-coloring-book-2017-1

The People Behind (and in) the Museum

It’s #MuseumWeek, where museums around the world take to Twitter in a behind-the-scenes look at collections! Today’s theme is people. Follow us here on the blog, on Twitter and on Instagram all week to keep up with each event! #peopleMW

Skull Specimen
A toothless male skull featured in a case of 19th century surgical instruments. Gift of Charles A. Muncaster, 1968.

Although the Dittrick Museum’s collections primarily focus on medical tools and  artifacts, a close look around the galleries reveals a few human specimens ever ready to greet visitors with perpetual (and sometimes toothless) smiles. Like the surgical sets and pharmaceuticals they’re featured next to, these specimens were also tools — tools used to teach students about the human body.

Dissection Dittrick
Class Portrait from Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, 1880-1930

Our collections include many historic images of medical students engaged in dissection, often with each trainee’s name inscribed on the photo. Meanwhile, the identities of the cadavers, like our featured human specimens, remain unknown. Little information is available to answer questions such as: Who were these people? Why did they become objects of anatomical study?

For example, the young male skeleton featured in our period doctor’s office came from Dr. Charles A. Muncaster, a graduate of the Western Reserve School of Medicine, class of 1919. He had acquired the specimen during his studies in 1915, a time when an articulated skeleton sold for $45 to $75. Advertisements for osteological specimens offered no details about the source of their materials, only the quality of the articulation.

1915 Osteological Speciments.jpg
Osteological Preparations from Halsam & Co. Catalog  (1915).

In 1968, besides the two human specimens shown above, Muncaster donated his complete obstetrical bag, providing a snap-shot of early 20th century physician-assisted childbirth.  Like Dr. Muncaster, the museum’s collections have been greatly enriched by generous patrons’ donations of their professional tools. The artifacts tell not only the stories of individual practitioners, but also of patients, education and historical understandings of health and the body.

Muncaster OB Bag
Obstetrical Bag and Artifacts, c. 1920. Gift of Charles A. Muncaster, 1968.

The Eye as Art: Anatomy and Vision in the 18th Century

Engraving of the eye in DeGravers' A Complete Physico-Medical and Churugical on the Human Eye and the Demonstration of Natural Vision (1780).
Fig. 1: Engraving of the eye in  A Complete Physico-Medical and Churugical on the Human Eye and the Demonstration of Natural Vision (Degraver, 1780).

There is not one Part of the whole Body, that discovers more Art and Disign (sic), than this small Organ: All its Parts are so excellently well contrived, so elegantly formed and nicely adjusted that none can deny it to be an Organ as magnificent and curious, as the Sense is useful and entertaining.

— William Porterfield in A Treatise on the Eye, The Manner and Phaenomena of Vision, 1759

The Dittrick Museum is thrilled to have Dr. Jonathan Lass present “Eye of the Artist” for the upcoming Zverina Lecture on Oct. 14th. Dr. Lass, the Charles I. Thomas Professor, and formerly chair, in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and Medical Director of the Cleveland Eye Bank, will discuss the ways eye conditions impacted the work of artists including Pissaro, Monet, Degas, and O’Keefe, and how individual vision could influence major artistic movements throughout history.

Fig. 2: Engraving of how the parts of the eye create an image of an object. From Chandler (1780).
Fig. 2: Engraving of how the eye creates an image of an object. From Chandler (1780).

Although Dr. Lass will focus on pathological conditions for his lecture, today’s post looks at how 18th century physicians described “normal” or “natural” vision. These authors’ considered the eye, with its delicate structures and wondrous design, as a work of art. To disseminate research about these intricacies, engravers used immense skill and detail to produce anatomical representations (Fig. 1) and optics diagrams (Fig. 2).

Aside from graphical renditions, these early writings on the eye relied on artistic terms. Rays of light “paint” images onto the retina and these unique “strokes” are received by the Sensorium (the sensory part of the brain) and interpreted as “sketches of nature” by a viewer’s Mind.

Fig. 3: Structure of the eye and optic nerves from
Fig. 3: Structure of the eye and optic nerves from Degravers (1780).

Medical authors’ use of this artistic terminology reflected contemporary discussions surrounding the relationship between vision and reality. Were the perceptions of the Mind accurate depictions of the environment or were they truly only “sketches”? Could the eyes be trusted as empirical tools in science, or were external devices, like microscopes, necessary to ensure precise experimental data? Do eyes act as artists or instruments? Debates about the nature of colors (inherent in objects, dependent on light, created by the eyes) and the origins of delusions (originating from the mind or the organs) circled in scientific communities where the hallmark of research was eye-witnessed experimentation.

We hope you join us for the Zverina Lecture to hear more about how the eyes’ structure and function influence perceptions of reality, and how major artists’ health impacted the way they saw and portrayed the world around them.

The talk begins at 6:00PM, followed by a reception in the Dittrick Museum gallery. There is no charge, but you must register to get a seat! Please RSVP to Jennifer Nieves at 216/369-3648 or via email at jks4@case.edu

Continue reading The Eye as Art: Anatomy and Vision in the 18th Century

Dittrick Book Launch Event: Rhetoric in the Flesh

Contributor: Julia Balacko

EVENT: Book Launch for T. Kenny Fountain’s Rhetoric in the Flesh

hRecently, I had the pleasure of attending the book launch for T. Kenny Fountain’s Rhetoric in the Flesh: Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, and the Gross Anatomy Lab at the Dittrick Museum. At the event, Fountain discussed some of the key arguments from the book, and shared anecdotes from his participant observation in the human gross anatomy lab.

Fountain’s text is an ethnographic account penned from the perspective of a rhetorician of science communication. His focus on language offers a lens into anatomical learning and clinical training that is at once pointed and engrossing. Through his account, Fountain reveals the underlying relationships and tensions between students of anatomy and the bodies they dissect.

As I learned from the book launch talk and from an initial reading of the text, one term that Fountain’s participants in the laboratory often returned to was “making.” This word appears counterintuitive, given that dissection entails acts that are more closely associated with destruction than creation: scraping fat from tissues, disarticulating bones, removing organs to see structures beneath of them. However, “making” had a particular cadence in the interviews and interactions that Fountain had with students and faculty in the lab.

Students, instructors, and teaching assistants in the cadaver laboratories employed “making” to describe cutting and preparing the corpse in ways that would mimic the beautifully colored, flawlessly sketched anatomical drawings in their medical atlases. To dissect a body in a careful fashion that would reveal biological structures as cleanly and as clearly as the textbooks was to “make” the body, both into a mimicry of the visuals in the textbooks, and into a body that was representative of what the books deemed anatomical truth. Some students alternatively deemed this process “Netterizing,” or rendering their cadaver’s anatomy to appear as manifestly as the eminent anatomical artist and physician Frank Netter did in his illustrations.

Students in the past have also “made” cadavers into new visual things, as the Dittrick Museum’s collection of rare photographs from 19th century medical schools reveal. Medical students in that era would commonly photograph themselves and their classmates standing over the body they were dissecting. These photographs were frequently sent as postcards to family members as a sign of pride, demonstrating the students’ hard work in medical school and their experience in the anatomical laboratory. In these images, the cadaver represented how they were becoming professionally distinct as physicians: they could learn by dismembering real human bodies, a privilege not extended to other professions and certainly not to a scientifically-minded lay person.

The Dittrick Museum Chief Curator, James M. Edmonson, published these photographs along with historical commentary in the book Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930. Yale professor John Harley Warner, also a historian of medicine, coauthors the book.

As we see, the students dissecting bodies can transform these cadavers into something else. Yet bodies can be “made” by more than the students and faculty alone. Fountain’s text argues that bodies can make themselves. In one case in his book, a woman who donated her body to science accompanied her anatomical gift with a letter. The letter contained details of the domestic abuse she suffered, as she explained the scars medical students would discover on her skin when they began to dissect her. The woman cast her body in a context that the students who received her body, and read her correspondence, could not ignore when considering the conditions under which that body lived and died. This woman “made” her body a representation of its life, its embodied struggles, and its significance as a precious gift to the students who received it.

Cadavers can also “make” themselves in death. One cadaver in the laboratory Fountain observed at had late-stage cancer that had not been reported on her medical records before she was embalmed for dissection. The cancerous tissue was stiff and impossible to cut through. It obscured structures, encased organs, and halted the dissection. In this instance, the cadaver makes itself both anomalous– by not representing “true” anatomical structures like the textbooks– and simultaneously representative of the reality of disease, which medical students will confront as future physicians.

In the past and today, cadaver dissection stands an important source of experiential and visual knowledge of the material human body for medical professionals. Like the 19th century medical students who posed proudly next to their cadavers, medical students today are equally as privileged to gain firsthand knowledge from the human body. Although students’ relationships to their cadavers have no doubt changed, as Fountain’s book suggests, the study of anatomy remains an exceptional experience in the education of future physicians.

You can learn more about and purchase Rhetoric in the Flesh here: http://www.attw.org/publications/book-series/rhetoric-in-the-flesh

To learn more about the Dittrick Museum’s photographs, get Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine here: http://www.amazon.com/Dissection-Photographs-American-Medicine-1880-1930/dp/0922233349

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Julia Balacko is a second-year PhD student in medical anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. Her research explores the history, development, and cultural meaning of cadaver dissection in American medical education.

NYAM hosts Vesalius 500: Art and Anatomy

WebThis October, the New York Academy of Medicine will host Art, Anatomy, and the Body: Vesalius 500, Guest curated by artist and anatomist Riva Lehrer

On October 18, the NYAM’s second-annual Festival for Medical History and the Arts, “Art, Anatomy, and the Body: Vesalius 500″ will celebrate the 500th birthday of anatomist Andreas Vesalius. Our own Brandy Schillace, research associate and guest curator for the Dittrick, will be one of the hosted speakers! Click here for the full schedule–and see below for a short description.

Vesalius’ groundbreaking De humani corporis fabrica (The Fabric of the Human Body) of 1543 is a key Renaissance text, one that profoundly changed medical training, anatomical knowledge, and artistic representations of the body, an influence that has persisted over the centuries. The Festival is one of a global series of celebrations of his legacy, and a day-long event will explore the intersection of anatomy and the arts with a vibrant roster of performers and presenters, including Heidi Latsky’s “GIMP” Dance Project; the comics artists of Graphic Medicine; Sander Gilman on posture controlling the unruly body; Alice Dreger on inventing the medical photograph; Bill Hayes on researching hidden histories of medicine; Steven Assael, Ann Fox and Chun-shan (Sandie) Yi on anatomy in contemporary art; Chase Joynt’s Resisterectomy, a meditation on surgery and gender; Brandy Schillace on ambivalent depictions of female anatomy in the 18th century; Lisa Rosner on famous body snatchers Burke and Hare; the art of anatomical atlases with Michael Sappol; medical 3D printing demos by ProofX; anatomical painting directly on skin with Kriota Willberg; Daniel Garrison on translating Vesalius for modern audiences; Jeff Levine and Michael Nevins on revisiting The Fabrica Frontispiece; and many more!

To join this excellent event, register here or visit the NYAM blog!

Under Your Skin: the Anatomy Artwork of H.V. Carter

2014-05-22 10.52.12The history of Gray’s Anatomy is well known, but it’s brilliant illustrator Henry Vandyke Carter, is frequently it’s “unsung hero.” Though working tirelessly on the book that would go on to be the single most important textbook for anatomy and medical students, his contribution was “torpedoed” by Henry Gray, and he sunk into obscurity. [1] What remains are the images, displayed here, from the Dittrick Museum’s 1859 edition.

There were two authors, of Gray’s Anatomy, not one. However, as Druin Burch explains, Henry Vandyke Carter “regarded himself, sometimes with a little help from Gray, as belonging to a lower ‘genus’ of humanity, fit only to hold the worldly ladder while his ambitious colleague climbed.” [2]  Even so, the anatomy would never have gained popularity without the fine woodcuts created by Carter. Additionally, the names of muscles, nerves and bones were “written into the 2014-05-22 10.52.56body.” [2]

Carter was born today, May 22, in 1831 to somewhat more humble parents than Gray, who was a few years older. He became a student in human and comparative anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons and earned his Bachelor’s of Medicine degree. After working with Gray to provide some of the notable, elegant, and recognizable engravings of anatomy, Carter joined the Indian Medical Service and became Professor of Anatomy at Grant Medical College in Bombay. He died of tuberculosis in 1897. Between Gray’s Anatomy and the end of his career, Carter studied leprosy and presented stained preparations of the disease bacilli at a medical meeting. [3]  His study on leprosy was considered some of the truly valuable papers of his career, “excelling in the descriptions of macroscopic anatomy of the lesions.” [3]

2014-05-22 10.52.36Carter also investigated the cause of fever among famine-stricken Indians in the 1870s. He identified Spirillum minus and brought to notice the role of spleen in “clearing the blood” of microorganisms. [3] Carter was rewarded for his achievements with the Stewart Prize of the British Medical Association–and his meritorous career also earned him the title of Honorary Physician to the queen in 1890. Even so, it is frequently his artwork rather than his life’s work that are most remembered–even if, just as frequently, his name is rarely attached.

 

[1] Michael E. Moran MD, “Gray’s Anatomy of Stones: Henry Vandyke Carter.” Urolithiasis, 2014, pp 131-144

[2] Druin Burch. “Breathing life into Gray’s Anatomy” The Lancet. Volume 371, Issue 9621, Pages 1327 – 1328, 19 April 2008.

[3]

Newsworthy Events

Welcome back tot he Dittrick Museum Blog!

Today, we would like to mention some newsworthy events upcoming in February. Mark your calendars, Clevelandites!

FEBRUARY 19
FROM THE TIGRIS TO THE TIBER: A CASE OF BABYLONIAN ‘ASTRO-MEDICINE’ IN PLINY THE ELDER

The Departments of Classics and History are sponsoring a talk on ancient “astro-medicine” (free and open to the public) on Wednesday, February 19 from 3:00 – 4:00 PM in Mather House 100

Maddalena Rumor, Doctoral Candidate, Freie Universität, Berlin, will present and compare two texts – a puzzling late Babylonian Kalendertext written on a cuneiform tablet in Uruk by a scholar named Iqīšâ (late fourth century BCE), and a passage from the Natural History of Pliny the Elder (first century CE) concerning fever therapies. While at a first glance these two testimonies seem to have nothing in common, a closer examination of them reveals that Pliny was commenting on the specific tradition of pairing animal products with calendric/zodiac information as found in Iqīšâ’s text, and thus each is useful for the interpretation of the other.

This finding represents the only identified direct proof of the sharing of astro-medical knowledge between the lands of cuneiform writing and the Greco-Roman world. As such, it has far-reaching implications for the history of ancient medicine and/or astrology.

FEBRUARY 20th
HANDERSON MEDICAL HISTORY LECTURE: JAN VAN RYMSDYK, ANATOMY ARTIST EXTRAORDINARY

The Dittrick Museum will present a lecture and reception, free and open to the public, Thursday, February 20th, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Lucy Inglis Lucy Inglis (Museum of London) presents Jan Van Rymsdyk, the best anatomical artist of the eighteenth century. His work on two pioneering medical treatises, A Set of Anatomical Tables and The Gravid Uterus, marked the birth of modern obstetrics. Yet Van Rymsdyk’s life has been overlooked. A portrait painter by ambition, a botanical artist of some repute, he was also a skilled engraver and mezzotint worker. This lecture and companion exhibit explores his life, work and legacy.

William Smellie (1697-1763) and William Hunter (1718-1783) both published landmark book’s on obstetrics in which accurate illustrations were essential. Smellie wanted his advances in the use of forceps to continue after his death. Hunter wanted his scientific discoveries on why women died in childbirth to ensure his fame. They both needed Van Rymsdyk. He worked fast, with pinpoint accuracy, and his images had a strange allure. For all their gruesome reality; in them he managed to combine the Enlightenment ideal of beauty and truth. William Hunter said, “the magic of Jan Van Rymsdyk is that he ‘represents what was actually seen, it carries the mark of truth, and becomes almost as infallible as the object itself”.

RSVP required by Monday, February 17th. RSVP to jennifer.nieves@case.edu or call 216-368-3648