IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Giant Ears and 'anatomical dolls': theoretical, practical and cultural challenges of scale in the history of anatomical models
Three-dimensional models at different scales are central to learning about the body today, from miniaturized dolls which show the location of large organs to giant ears explaining the mechanism of hearing, and life-sized plastic torsos designed to teach CPR. This lecture traces the emergence of this genre of object since the Renaissance, focusing mainly on anatomical models in wax and papier-mâché from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which were celebrated as innovative tools for teaching and research. Such models were frequently part of reform projects: the anatomical waxes of eighteenth-century Florence for instance were meant to turn Tuscans into enlightened citizens, while the French papier-mâché models of Dr Auzoux were distributed globally to contribute to a wide range of social and political projects, from the French public health movement to medical schools in Egypt and India.
The lecture will consider different ways in which scale mattered for modelling enterprises: For critics who derided models as 'anatomical dolls' and denied their utility as tools for teaching or research; for entrepreneurs who marketed mass-produced models on a large scale; and for model users who responded to encounters with the body at unfamiliar scales in different ways, with amusement or horror.
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