The Dilemma of Pernkopf's Atlas

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Science  16 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5989, pp. 274-275
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5989.274-b

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For more than 2 decades beginning in 1933, University of Vienna anatomist Eduard Pernkopf labored on his Topographical Anatomy of Man. The resulting four-volume anatomical atlas was described by The New England Journal of Medicine in 1990 as "an outstanding book of great value to anatomists and surgeons," and its anatomical illustrations remain unsurpassed even today. But Pernkopf and several of his artists were avid Nazis, as revealed in a 1988 study. A University of Vienna investigation determined in 1998 that Pernkopf's anatomy department received bodies of executed prisoners from the Gestapo and from Vienna's assize court (see main text). What should anatomists in 2010 do with an atlas that is both scientifically valuable and morally tainted? Researchers remain deeply divided.