Michael Sappol

Ph.D., Research Fellow, Uppsala University

2017 to 2018
Research Fellow

Anatomy’s Photography: Objectivity, showmanship & the reinvention of the anatomical image 1860-1950

Anatomists were slow to embrace photography. When Nikolaus Rüdinger and other anatomists finally took to it, they took liberties. They cut, sliced, posed, and lit their cadavers in idiosyncratic ways to suit the camera. They drew on and painted over their photographs and added captions. The artist’s pen and brush were as evident as the anatomist’s saw and scalpel—and both were subject to an aesthetic impulse. The images were eccentric, shocking.  Although photography was an emblematic technology of modernity, celebrated as an instrument of scientific progress and objectivity, it never became the dominant mode of anatomical illustration. But it did have a vogue. Between 1861 and 1950, anatomists in Germany, France, North America, Britain, and other countries created thousands of photographs. This project studies the images, epistemological status, scientific claims, rhetorical power, aesthetics, and moral implications of anatomical photography—as were debated then, and as we debate them now.

Read more about Michael's research here.