Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, 1880-1930

( 3 )

Overview

As early as the 1840s, against admonishments to maintain secrecy, medical students and their instructors began to create photographic images of themselves centered around cadavers in dissecting rooms. This would become one of the most ubiquitous and archetypal forms of medical portraiture before 1930, and yet it vanished almost completely after 1950. These photographs were made in a surprising variety of forms, from "cartes de visite" to postcards to staged dark humor scenes. "Dissection" features 135 ...

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Overview

As early as the 1840s, against admonishments to maintain secrecy, medical students and their instructors began to create photographic images of themselves centered around cadavers in dissecting rooms. This would become one of the most ubiquitous and archetypal forms of medical portraiture before 1930, and yet it vanished almost completely after 1950. These photographs were made in a surprising variety of forms, from "cartes de visite" to postcards to staged dark humor scenes. "Dissection" features 135 extraordinary examples of this collaboration of early photography and medicine, with illuminating essays by two experts on the subject.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This is a startling window into the education of American doctors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries-on both a visceral level and for its revealing cultural record. Cringe-worthy shots of medical students-bare-handed gentlemen and a few ladies in street clothes show off their scalpels, saws and textbooks-while their cadavers, mostly poor and black, are awkwardly posed, and exposed. In one stunning shot, a black woman looks out from behind the young students. "What are we to make of an African-American woman, standing, broom handle in hand, behind the dissection table, her gaze fixed on the camera?" the authors ask. More importantly, they conclude, the photo is now drawn "out of the shadows of history" where "we can at least bear witness." A blood-soaked dissection table makes you want to look away and the dark humor of students playing pranks with skeletons are both hilarious and horrible. Postcards sent to family and friends must have caused shock and awe for postmen and recipient alike. Here, a difficult glance into medicine's "uncomfortable past" offers a grand opportunity to understand the legacy doctors and patients live with, and benefit from, today.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780922233342
  • Publisher: Blast Books
  • Publication date: 5/19/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 705,394
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 20, 2013

    A MUST HAVE...

    This is one of those one of a kind books that everyone should have in their collection. It's got a great selection of antique medical photos. It's just a really neat piece of medical history. I loved the morbid since of humor these students had, especially when you see photos of them with the cadavers smoking or propped up in some pose for a postcard. This is definitly a great book. It's everything I thought it would be and more. I was very pleased with it. It's worth the money.

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  • Posted December 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Really good book!

    I thought that this book was really interesting although it could have used some more writing. Great pictures too. I recommend if you want to do something in the medical area... like a medical examiner.

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    Posted July 13, 2013

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