The Instructive Corpse: Dissection, Anatomical Specimens, and Illustration in Early Nineteenth-Century Medical Education

Cindy Stelmackowich


At the turn of the nineteenth century when anatomy and hands-on dissection became the prerequisite for a medical career, the medical community in England and France increasingly relied upon visual representations as part of a complex system of reinforcement of their professional goals. The production of novel illustrated textbooks that disseminated arguments through systematizing illustrations were thus integral to their professional status. Through an examination of a series of realistic diagrams that outlined the new methods of surgical and preservation techniques, this paper argues that visual diagrams were instrumental in supporting the systematic codification and prestige on which nineteenth-century medical knowledge was to depend. It analyses the visual rhetoric and the complex representational languages of these intricate and equally precise illustrations by asking how these illustrations embraced new representational strategies as well as embodied idealizing aesthetic techniques.

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