EXHIBIT: The Happy Cadaver

Science  25 Oct 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5594, pp. 709
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5594.709e

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You won't see an image like this in Gray's Anatomy. But early anatomy texts often depicted smiling, cavorting bodies flaunting their dangling innards and exposed muscles, as in this 1681 sketch by artist John Browne. Although it seems macabre today, the “cadaver at play” convention was one step toward the modern scientific drawing. Find out more about the evolution of anatomical illustration at the fascinating Dream Anatomy Web site, an online version of an exhibition that opened 9 October at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.

Featuring works from ancient Egypt to the present day, the exhibit highlights the trend toward greater realism and accuracy, led by scientists and artists such as the Italian anatomist Andreas Vesalius. His meticulous 1543 text is considered the first modern anatomy book. Although the physical exhibit ends next July, the Web version will continue to grow, says curator-historian Michael Sappol.


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