Cadavers and Curios from the Dawn of Modern Medicine [Slide Show]

Illustrations from the new book Dr. Mütter’s Marvels chronicle the tools available to 19th-century Philadelphia doctor and medical innovator Thomas Mütter

By Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

1 of 7

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels

Thomas Dent Mütter was a 19th-century doctor in Philadelphia responsible for numerous medical innovations. He was mocked by peers for peculiarities such as sterilizing his tools and offering pre- and post-operative care, and was a trailblazer in the use of anesthesia.....[ More ]

The Muscle Man

While to contemporary eyes this looks like a work of art, this image is actually a teaching tool used in the 17th century to show doctors where muscles were located and what body parts they served. In a time before photography and when access to cadavers was limited, images like this were an important reference—for students and doctors alike.....[ More ]

Portrait of a Medical Student

This portrait of a 19th-century Jefferson Medical College student gives us a vision into how different being a doctor was in that century. In a time before microscopes, x-rays or even companies that manufactured standardized medicines, a medical student’s tools included textbooks and prepared medical specimens (like skeletons), along with a mortar and pestle, because doctors were frequently responsible for making their own medicines.....[ More ]

African-American Patient

This woodcut image isn't just interesting for the brain surgery it portrays but also because of its subject matter. The patient is a young boy of African descent, and the image was published in Mütter's American surgical textbook in 1846—14 years before the start of the Civil War.....[ More ]

The Pit

Another interesting look into the medical education of the 19th-century is this photograph of the surgical clinic at Jefferson Medical College, called “The Pit.” Note the lack of surgical masks or gloves on any of the doctors and complete lack of women within the student population.....[ More ]

Dissection Laboratory

A generation after Joseph Pancoast made do with limited access to cadavers for his anatomical lectures, this photo of the anatomy dissection laboratory of Pancoast's son William shows us the changes that occurred in the late 19th century.....[ More ]

Lecture Tickets

Medical students of the 19th century learned largely by lecture, which they would attend for a year or two before being tested. Lecture tickets were frequently not areas for creativity, but this ticket to Philadelphia's Joseph Pancoast's anatomy class lecture looked like a work of art.....[ More ]

risk free title graphic

YES! Send me a free issue of Scientific American with no obligation to continue the subscription. If I like it, I will be billed for the one-year subscription.

cover image Subscribe Now
Share this Article:

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article