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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellows' Seminar - Histories of Scale in Anatomical Modelling

30th January 2017, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Dr Anna Maerker (King's College, London)

Models have become a central element of modern knowledge production. From electronically enhanced plastic bodies for medical training to computer models of climate change, models play a key role for contemporary teaching, research and policy. However, the concept of the model defies easy definition. Historical scholarship has drawn attention to the cultural, social, and political contexts as crucial to our understanding of practices of model making and model use. Dr Anna Maerker's current project Model Communities: The Science and Politics of Anatomical Models in the Nineteenth Century aims to contribute to this debate by providing empirical material on the historical emergence of the concept of the model in medicine, science and politics, and on the relationship between concepts and practices of modelling. The project's focus is on the case study of a nineteenth-century model-making enterprise: the three-dimensional anatomical models developed by the French doctor Auzoux. The models were mass-produced at a factory, using a newly developed paper paste which allowed for the creation of robust, detachable models. The first models were life-sized, but the company soon developed miniaturised and enlarged models of human bodies, body parts, and animals. The models were exported globally to be used in medical training and general education, from medical schools in Egypt and India to lecture series by women’s rights activists and political radicals in the U.S. The concept of the model was mobilised in several ways: not only did the enterprise produce three-dimensional representations of human and animal bodies, Auzoux himself was described in biographical accounts as a model entrepreneur, while his factory was celebrated as a model for social improvement. His workers, and some colonial subjects, were singled out as ‘model students’. In the project Dr Maerker uses the Auzoux models to investigate this diversity of meanings. She wants to draw attention to the ways in which models are embedded in communities, and to argue that we need to understand this context to fully grasp how and why models work.

The notion of scale is crucial for this understanding in several ways:

- How did the scale of models shape their reception? How, for instance, did scale raise concerns about the toy-like nature of “anatomical dolls”?

- Did changes in scale create or inform concerns about the validity of models - how did scale shape the perceived epistemological value of such representations?

- How did models visualise temporal development, e.g. in embryological series?

- How did anatomical models turn from being individually created works of art into mass-produced items, and did this scaling up render the representations’ claims to authority problematic?

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact for more information about this event.