Monday, March 5, 2012

Dissection on display

My book has been published! Dissection on Display: Cadavers, Anatomists and Public Spectacle is a good read, if I don't say so myself. Here is the last paragraph of the Preface:
"The dissectors of earlier times and today have had the ability to mold bodies into anatomical marvels curated for future generations in medical museums, or to hold an audience spellbound by cutting cadavers apart. What these bodies symbolized for the anatomists and those who
saw their work—during their lifetimes or long afterward—had much to do with the age in which they lived. During the Renaissance, Europeans crowded into newly-built anatomy theaters to see for themselves how the hand of God manifested itself in the internal workings of the human body. The revolutionary anatomist Andreas Vesalius was teaching those who watched in such an engrossing way that knowledge of anatomy came firsthand, not at arm’s length through the published mistakes of predecessors. As the history of anatomy unfolded in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, throngs of commoners clamored after an execution to ensure that the sentence to be hanged and publicly dissected was carried out to its ignominious end. The lesson to the audience, as depicted in William Hogarth’s famous illustration, was that crime does not pay. The moral took the form of the undraped corpse picked apart in front of friends and neighbors—and perhaps skinned to make manifest the metaphorical book of the body. For Victorians watching the much-anticipated unwrapping and examination of an Egyptian mummy, Thomas Pettigrew was dissecting another culture for his well-heeled audience, not merely pulling apart an ancient and exotic human corpse. But early in the twentieth century, public dissection went underground. The cadaver came to signify privileged knowledge as witnessing and participating in dissection became the prerogative of doctors and doctors-to-be as part of their professional development. To revisit how the doors of the anatomy theater were opened to the public, closed to those without credentials, and then thrown open again, let us take a seat as the anatomist takes the stage..."
If this piques your interest - morbid, medical, historical, or otherwise - the book can be ordered (like my previous 5) directly from McFarland. It is also available from Amazon. Those of you who have followed along during my 3-year research and writing process* know my inspiration and the dedication it took to bring the project to fruition. I can now say I am pleased with, and proud of, the result!

*during which the blog byproducts included posts about career and artistic anatomists, an anatomy theater, the dissection of animals (an elephant and a squid), notorious bodysnatcher William Burke and what was done to his body, anatomical paintings by Rembrandt and modern artists, and dreams about dissection by Freud and a French scholar.


  1. Congratulations!!! You look so happy! You are so creative and accomplished. Dawn Suitcase Vignettes xo

  2. Congratulations! Sell lots and prosper!


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