Autumn Books

Diseases in Wax: The History of the Medical Moulage

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 21 October 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1109
  1. Sander L Gilman

    Thomas Schnalke, trans Kathy Spatschek Quintessence, pounds sterling138, pp 226 ISBN 0 86715 306 7

    In the late 1980s the question of what would be the best way of representing the human body for teaching and research was solved by researchers at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. They decided to “build” the Visible Man and (eventually) the Visible Woman out of data bits. How can you be absolutely accurate and absolutely realistic? Here is the formula: take a real body (in this case that of an executed criminal), scan it by nuclear magnetic resonance, and make the data available on the Internet. This is the “cutting edge” of body imaging of the 1990s, but like all cutting edges it has a history.

    Thomas Schnalke, an assistant professor of the history of medicine at Erlangen-Nuremberg, has presented a prehistory of the Visible Body project without being aware of it. His history of the medical wax moulage is a first rate introduction to the rationale and methods for creating highly realistic, accurate images of the body.

    Schnalke's study discusses the origins of this technique within religious imagery. He focuses …

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