Views & Reviews Review of the Week

How do we begin?

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 07 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5580
  1. Martin P M Richards, emeritus professor of family research, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge
  1. mpmr{at}

How has human reproduction been communicated? Martin P M Richards delves into an exhibition and concludes that it was never straightforward

In roughly 50 objects, this show presents a long history of the communication of matters of generation and reproduction. The exhibition both makes connections, and provokes through juxtapositions, as demonstrated by the five objects in the introductory case.

These are an illustrated children’s book, How Did I Begin? published in 1997; a rather fetching miniature figurine of a woman holding her breasts, from Syria, 700–500 BC; and a letter dating from 1850 from Charles Darwin to his mentor John Henslow, describing Darwin’s use of chloroform on his wife during the birth of his son Leonard (Leonard was destined to become president of the Eugenics Education Society). There are also a home pregnancy test kit and an engraving from William Hunter’s The Anatomy of the Gravid Uterus (1774), which we are invited to see as offering a vicarious, even prurient, view of women’s secrets. There is another family connection here; William’s brother John is credited with …

View Full Text

Sign in

Log in through your institution