Happy Valentines Day…

Happy Valentines Day!

Cupid dissecting a heart in a book published in Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – does it get more romantic than this?! I don’t think so.

From ‘Cardiomorphoseos sive ex corde desumpta emblemata sacra’ by Francesco Pona, published in Verona, Italy 1665.

L0029157 Francesco Pona, Cardiomorphoses sive ex corde... Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Cupid dissecting a heart. Scrutator es tu. Cardiomorphoseos sive ex corde desumpta emblemata sacra Francesco Pona Published: 1665 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

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The Spooky Saturday Collection: October 2016

Through October I shared some of the creepiest illustrations from my 2016 archived collection using #SpookySaturday on Facebook and Twitter.

In the four Saturdays leading up to Halloween, we looked a one gruesome artwork each week – now it’s time to vote for the spookiest!

 

1. 'Mummified cadaver' from Atlas of Legal Medicine by Eduard von Hofmann, 1898. The body of this 50 year old man wasn't discovered until 10 years after he hanged himself in his attic.

1. ‘Mummified cadaver’ from Atlas of Legal Medicine by Eduard von Hofmann, 1898. The body of this 50 year old man wasn’t discovered until 10 years after he hanged himself in his attic.

 

2. 'Resection of the maxilla' by Nicolas Henri Jacob from 'Traité complet de l'anatomie de l'homme' by Marc Jean Bourgery, 1831. Anaesthetic was first used in 1846...

2. ‘Resection of the maxilla’ by Nicolas Henri Jacob from ‘Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme’ by Marc Jean Bourgery, 1831. Anaesthetic was first used in 1846…

 

3. 'Abnormal twins and placenta' from 'Anatomie pathologique du corps humain' by Jean Cruveilhier, 1829

3. ‘Abnormal twins and placenta’ from ‘Anatomie pathologique du corps humain’ by Jean Cruveilhier, 1829

 

4. 'Severe tubercular leprosy (or ichthyosis) of the hand' from the Wellcome Library, London (original source unknown)

4. ‘Severe tubercular leprosy (or ichthyosis) of the hand’ from the Wellcome Library, London (original source unknown)

The Spooky Saturday Collection: October 2015

This October saw Spooky Saturday 2015 on Facebook and Twitter; a collection of some the most gruesome anatomical artworks I’ve curated through the year.

In the lead up to Halloween, we looked a one artwork each week in a ‘gruesome-off’, let’s see who won and put it to a vote!

Take a look at the four artworks below and cast your vote in the poll!

 

1. 'Tubercules' from 'Traité des Maladies de la Peau' by Pierre François Rayer,1835

1. ‘Tubercules’ from ‘Traité des Maladies de la Peau’ by Pierre François Rayer,1835

 

2. 'Surgical technique for correcting a lazy eye' from 'Traite complet de l'anatomie de l'homme' by Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery, 1831.

2. ‘Surgical technique for correcting a lazy eye’ from ‘Traite complet de l’anatomie de l’homme’ by Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery, 1831.

 

3. 'Fetal skeleton, placenta and embryo, and examples of arteriosclerosis' from Thesaurus Anatomicus by Frederik Ruysch, 1701.

3. ‘Fetal skeleton, placenta and embryo, and examples of arteriosclerosis’ from ‘Thesaurus Anatomicus’ by Frederik Ruysch, 1701.

 

4. 'Neoplasm from a rabbit, cartilagenous deposits on the spinal cord, ulcerated Peyer's patches on the small intestine, ulcerated small intestine, intestinal stricture, contractile tissue from a healed burn.' from 'Pathological Anatomy' by Sir Robert Carswell, 1838.

4. ‘Neoplasm from a rabbit, cartilagenous deposits on the spinal cord, ulcerated Peyer’s patches on the small intestine, ulcerated small intestine, intestinal stricture, contractile tissue from a healed burn.’ from ‘Pathological Anatomy’ by Sir Robert Carswell, 1838.

Severed Sculptures: Roderick Tye’s ‘The Human Presence’ at UCL Art Museum, London

Roderick Tye, Head, c.1990’s wax © The Artist’s Estate

Roderick Tye, Head, c.1990’s wax © The Artist’s Estate

Roderick Tye: The Human Presence
Monday 28 September – Friday 18 December 2015
UCL Art Museum, South Cloisters, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, London
Mon-Fri, 1pm-5pm. Free Admission

“Blood red wax catching the light, sinewy torsos dripping with life, earth toned bronzes in states of agony and ecstasy.”

That’s certainly one way of describing UCL Art Museum‘s latest exhibition. ‘The Human Presence’ is the first major re-examination of the work of Roderick Tye (1959-2009), a sculptor passionate about the visceral nature of human existence. Shown alongside his expressive head studies in charcoal, Tye’s wax and bronze head sculptures are severed from their bodies and mounted on metal spikes.

Interspersed with medical samples from UCL’s pathology collections and drawings from its art holdings, the displays are welcome to artists and sketchers.

Roderick Tye, Head, c 1990’s bronze © The Artist’s Estate

Roderick Tye, Head, c 1990’s bronze © The Artist’s Estate

The exhibition is curated by the Slade School of Fine Art in collaboration with UCL Art Museum, UCL Pathology Collections, and the Anatomy Laboratory (UCL Department of Cell and Developmental Biology). Displays feature large-scale anatomical drawings by Charles Bell, UCL’s first Professor of Anatomy in the 1830s and samples from UCL’s teaching collections, including wax models and human tissue remains.

A public programme of events, talks and workshops will complement the exhibition and will invite attendees to explore, engage with and discuss the work and its themes.

For more information visit www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/uclart/whats-on

10 Formaldehyde-Inspired Festive Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again to get the Christmas songs playing, put on some mulled wine and settle down to some online Christmas shopping. Here you will find a selection fabulous formaldehyde-inspired gift ideas for any anatomy enthusiast. And remember to treat yourself this festive season too…

So where to start? Firstly, you’re going to need a Christmas card. Put a smile on someone’s face with something humerus, get it?!…

 

Next, you’ll need to choose a gift for that special someone who appreciates the anatomical. Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it’s going well. Card written, gifts purchased, but wait, you still need gift wrap! Not to fear, you can even buy wrapping paper and gift tags for that skeleton-loving someone, not to mention the coolest sticky tape ever made.

 

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9. ‘Vintage Anatomy Tags‘ from Angelica Night. £1.97 per digital download.

 

'This is Spinal Tape'. $7.99 from www.thinkgeek.com

10. ‘This is Spinal Tape’. $7.99 from www.thinkgeek.com

 

So you’ve done well; your gruesomely-wrapped gift is sitting in pride of place under your Christmas tree next to the cuddly toys for the kids and Grandma’s brand new slippers. But there is a question lingering in the back of your mind; can you bring yourself to give it away?! Everyone prefers gift vouchers anyway, right?

All photographs featured above are copyright of the noted designers and sellers. Check out their websites through the hyperlinks and images for more Christmas gift inspiration.

The Spooky Saturday Collection: October 2014

This October saw the start of Spooky Saturday on Facebook and Twitter; a collection of some the most gruesome anatomical artworks I’ve curated through the year.

In the lead up to Halloween, we looked a one piece in all it’s grisly glory each weekend and rated it on the ‘Spooky Scale’.

So, which is the winner? Let’s put it to a vote.

Take a look at the four artworks below and cast your vote in the poll!

 

 1. 'Dissection of a pharynx affected by abscess, shown at post-mortem' from 'Principles of Surgery' by John Bell, 1801.

1. ‘Dissection of a pharynx affected by abscess, shown at post-mortem’ from ‘Principles of Surgery’ by John Bell, 1801.

 

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2. ‘Bone neoplasms on the skull’ from ‘Anatomie pathologique du corps humain’ by Jean Cruveilhier, 1829.

 

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3. Illustration by Max Brödel which was featured in a 1932 article which described “surgical procedures on the eye of a rabbit, illustrating anatomical parts”.

 

'Head and skull of malformed infants; conjoined twins, bilateral cleft lip and holoprosencephaly' from 'Surgical Anatomy' by Joseph Maclise, 1856.

4.’Head and skull of malformed infants; conjoined twins, bilateral cleft lip and holoprosencephaly’ from ‘Surgical Anatomy’ by Joseph Maclise, 1856.

 

Morbid Mementos: Memories of Egypt

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My mummified Egyptian in his sarcophagus

During a lovely, sunny break in Egypt this summer, I swore to myself I wouldn’t return home with typical, tacky, tourist tat. I failed. It’s just too easy to get carried away when shopping in Egypt. Initially wary of the market-place style haggling, it turned out to be one of the highlights of our holiday, spending some good times laughing and bantering with the local shop owners. It was on one of these occasions that I broke my tat-less promise. Shelves upon shelves of knick-knacks (including a lot of confusing penis-adorning Egyptian ornaments) I somehow managed to spot a gruesome gem. Imagine my deathly delight when I came across, not only a mummy’s sarcophagus, but one containing a creepy mummified corpse! The shopkeeper, clearly taken aback by my physical reaction to this morbid little mummy turned to my partner as asked, “She likes this kind of stuff?”. “Oh yeah,” he replied, “she loves the dead stuff!” Next came the customary ‘are you a bit weird?’ look that I’ve become accustomed to accept in such situations. The shopkeeper in a surprising ‘why didn’t you say so’ manner began to hunt high and low amongst the thousands upon thousands of goodness knows what that lined the shelves on the walls. “Here he is!” he exclaimed, “Anubis. The God of Death.”

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Anubis tends to the mummification process

One of the most iconic of the Ancient Egyptian gods, Anubis was known as guardian and protector of the deceased, their mummification and their journey through the underworld.  A man with the head of a jackal, Anubis’ black appearance depicted death and fertility, representing rebirth and the afterlife. In the many statutes, artworks and archaeological finds in which he is depicted, he can be seen in various states of part jackal, part man but never as man in his entirety. Jackals and desert dogs would hunt at the edges of the Egyptian desert where the cemeteries and necropolis lay, like Anubis, watching over the dead.

A mask of Anubis worn by priests during the mummification process. (Courtesy of Harrogate Borough Council, Museums and Arts Service)

A mask of Anubis worn by priests during the mummification process. (Courtesy of Harrogate Borough Council, Museums and Arts Service)

The Ancient Egyptians were famously known for the careful mummification of their dead whom they preserved with sweet-smelling plants and herbs. Anubis was thought to use his heightened sense of smell to sniff each mummified body and only allow the purest on to paradise. He would watch over the process, ensuring that the priests, who were known to wear masks of Anubis, conducted the mummification process to the utmost accuracy.

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Anubis weigh a heart on the Scales of Justice

Anubis guided the souls of the dead through the underworld, testing an individual’s commitment to the gods and weighing their heart on the Scales of Justice.  As Guardian of the Scales, Anubis would measure the weight of ones heart against the Feather of Ma’at which represented truth. If the heart was lighter than a feather, the deceased would be led into the underworld but if heavier, Anubis would feed the souls of sinners to Ammit the Destroyer; destructor of the souls of the corrupt and wicked.

So was my little Anubis worth taking home the tat for? According to the shopkeeper, I hope so; “Now you can have as much dead stuff as you want! Anubis will make you a mummy ever day. A hundred! You need him, he’ll always bring you dead stuff.” Sold. I’ll hold him to that.

Death, Dissection and Delight: The University of Dundee and CAHID

Photograph by Maja Daniels; Getty Images. via Financial Times Magazine, www.ft.com

Photograph by Maja Daniels; Getty Images via Financial Times Magazine. Read the full article

Yesterday the Financial Times published an article about the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee.

Established in 2008, a year after I left the Dundee anatomy lab behind, CAHID is now a world leading centre in human identification, lending its expertise to global natural disasters, criminal identification and facial reconstruction. Police and forensic teams now travel from around the globe to receive training and guidance from Professor Sue Black and her expert team who have recently been awarded the prestigious Queens Anniversary Prize for their ground breaking work.

The facial reconstruction of King Richard III. Photography by Dan Kitwood, Getty Images via National Geographic News

The facial reconstruction of King Richard III. Photography by Dan Kitwood, Getty Images via National Geographic News

Perhaps most famously, CAHID were responsible for the impressive reconstruction of the face of Richard III whose skeleton was found under a car park in Leicester during an archaeological dig in 2013. One of the most enjoyable modules of my degree was Biological Identity which was taught by Prof Caroline Wilkinson who is now professor of craniofacial identification at the centre. In an article by BBC News she commented on the project: “It was a great privilege to be able to analyse a skull thought to be Richard III. The facial reconstruction was produced on the assumption that the remains were unknown and portraits of Richard III were not used as reference.”

A comparison between traditional formalin embalming (left) and the more realistic Thiel technique (right)

A comparison between traditional formalin embalming (left) and the more realistic Thiel technique (right) Original photographs via bbc.co.uk

But CAHID are now breaking ground in different ways. Some of you may be aware of the Thiel embalming process; a technique pioneered in Austria that produces life-like cadavers for medical study, improving surgical training with undeniable real-life textures which simply cannot be achieved with the rubbery, lifeless results of traditional embalming with formalin. Now receiving approximately 75 body donations per year (some 40 more than when I started there in 2003),  Prof Sue Black’s  ‘Million for a Morgue’ project has resulted in brand new state-of-the-art Thiel embalming facilities which happen to be the only of their kind in the UK.

A plastinated hand, from the University of Otago featured in the New Zealand Medical Journal

A plastinated hand, from the University of Otago featured in the New Zealand Medical Journal

When, as a school pupil at the young age of 17, I visited the anatomy department at the University of Dundee for the first time, I knew I had discovered a life-changing place. On that day in 2002 I met one of the “three men all over 60” who managed the department as mentioned by Prof Black, Dr Christie. By then I knew that I wanted to study anatomy, the question was where. The leading university in the country for its degree, Dundee was always going to be tough to beat, but after visiting the department at the University of Glasgow during their post-application open day, I needed more than their ‘what is anatomy?’ poster on the wall to impress me. Dr Christie was a gentle, older gentleman who was smartly dressed and whose softly spoken voice welcomed you into the small anatomical museum in the Medical Sciences Institute. (Little did I know at the time that the dissection room was just the other side of those specimen-lined walls.) The small group of parents and their ambitious but apprehensive teenagers listened keenly to Dr Christie’s description of the course and the department’s facilities, fighting the temptation to be distracted completely by the specimens, models and bones that decorated the modest room. From nowhere, like a magician, he produced a brain and a hand, cut off just above the wrist; to say I sat up in my seat would be an understatement. As the specimens were passed around the room (we were getting to hold real body parts! But we had no gloves…) Dr Christie told us the background of the prosections which had been painstakingly dissected and in fact plastinated by none other than Gunther von Hagens, years before he was known to the public for his ghoulish exhibitions and televised human dissections. Well, that was it. It seems dramatic to say I’d fallen in love, but I thought about that little room, the jars that lined the walls, von Hagens’ specimens and Dr Christie’s gentle pronunciation of the word ‘dissected’ constantly until I walked through the doors again as a first year Anatomical Sciences student over a year later in 2003.

And of the other “three men all over 60”? One would turn out to be my true inspiration and an uncle away from home….

 

Read the FT article and interview with Prof Sue Black here
Read more about undergraduate, postgraduate and short courses run by CAHID here.

From Dissections to Death Masks: The Anatomical Museum, The University of Edinburgh

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk


Last weekend I was finally able to satisfy my curiosity of what lay behind the 19
th century doors of The University of Edinburgh’s School of Medicine and Anatomical Museum.

Located on Teviot Place, The Anatomical Museum at the University has not long been open to the public. Now welcoming visitors through its grand gates on the last Saturday of every month, it instantly absorbs you into its stony walls of history and heritage. The museum, which opened as part of the new Medical School in 1884, was founded by the renowned Monro dynasty; 3 generations of Alexander Monro’s whose teaching spanned 126 years occupying the Chair of Anatomy at the University, one after the other through the 18th and 19th century. The grand lobby looms over you with two enormous elephant skeletons from either side. As an eager anatomist, your eyes don’t know where to settle first; the enormous jaw bones of a whale, the huge replica of Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ or the many portraits and busts of famous anatomists from days gone by.

Dissection Theatre

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

As a former student of anatomy and as somebody who is fascinated by its teaching from days gone by, I was completely awestruck as I entered the dissection theatre which is still in use as a lecture theatre today. The beautiful rounded room is centred by a relatively small space that once was host to the magnificent spectical that medical students would flock to see; a human body. It’s tightly packed rows of seats are incredibly steep providing views of the cadaver to even those less-than-eager students in the back row. Sitting in one of the leather-like fold down chairs three quarters of the way to the back, I looked down upon the anatomical demonstration videos of Acland Anatomy that were projected onto the wall below. It was quite overwhelming to think that I was sitting in the very seats that would have looked upon the teaching of the famous Monro dynasty and the many cadavers that graced their dissection tables.

Death Masks

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

The museum has a fascinating collection of 40 life and death masks on display which eerily look out onto the museum and its curious visitors from the far wall that they occupy. Originally belonging to the Edinburgh Phrenological Society, the collection which is now owned by the William Ramsey Henderson Trust shows some well known faces from scientists and politicians to criminals and historical figures. To literally come face to face with pioneering Scottish anatomist and surgeon John Hunter and buyer of Burke and Hare’s bodies Robert Knox alongside notorious figures such as William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar is an experience that can only be personified by the true anatomical cast of the individual’s face.

Burke and Hare

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

Photograph by Hugh Pastoll via www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

The notorious Westport Murderers are well known historical characters in Edinburgh. Known across the world as the ruthless bodysnatchers who took the lives of at least 16 Edinburgh residents from 1827 to 1828 to capitalise from the high demand for cadavers in the the dissecting rooms of Edinburgh’s Medical School. Once their crimes were discovered and they were both detained, Hare was offered immunity from prosecution if he would confess and agree to testify against Burke. His testimony set him free and committed Burke to execution by hanging in Edinburgh on January 28, 1829. His body was dissected at The University of Edinburgh and his skeleton preserved, articulated and displayed. Now on view at the museum (minus the two phalanges from the 3rd toe on his right foot…), visitors can come face to face with this shady character from Edinburgh’s past, a vivid reminder of how far anatomy and its teaching have come since those dark days in the early 1800s.

To find out more about the Anatomical Museum, visit their website at www.anatomy.mvm.ed.ac.uk

Hydrocephalus: Cerebrospinal Fluid and a Curious Condition

Prof. Jas. Mundie
Copyright: Prof Jas. Mundie

Although I have previously posted about hydrocephalus on the Facebook page’s ‘Fact of the Day’, I was inspired to discover more about this distinctive condition after a recent visit to Surgeon’s Hall Museum, Edinburgh. Full of fascinating pathological specimens, the congenital hydrocephalic infant skulls on display are hard to miss with their domed craniums, characteristic of bodies more alien than our own.

The term hydrocephalus comes from the Greek words ‘hydro’ meaning water  and ‘cephalus’ meaning head. Translated literally, it means ‘water on the brain’. Hydrocephalus is in fact a build up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain.

10 Facts About Cerebrospinal Fluid

  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear, colourless liquid that fills and surrounds the brain and the spinal cord, acting as a lubricator against bone and a shock absorber against trauma to our body’s most important system
  • It is formed primarily in the ventricles of the brain and circulates via a series of chambers
  • It helps to maintain a constant pressure within the cranium by decreasing in levels as the volume of blood or brain tissue increases and vice versa
  • When cerebrospinal fluid is in excess, it is moved away from the brain by absorption into the bloodstream by a specialised tissue called the arachnoid villi which act as a one way valve
  • It transports metabolic waste products, antibodies, chemicals, and products of disease away from the brain and spinal cord into the bloodstream
  • It has a slightly alkaline pH
  • It is about 99% water.
  • There are approximately 100-150ml of CSF in the average adult human body
  • It is produced continuously, and it is completely replaced every six to eight hours
  • Analysis of CSF can diagnose a number of diseases. Samples can be obtained by lumbar puncture or spinal tap by inserting a needle into the lumbar region of the lower back

Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus can develop where there is a blockage in one of the ventricles, preventing excess CSF from moving out of the brain, where the arachnoid villi aren’t functioning properly and CSF is unable to filter into the blood vessels or, in some rare cases,  when the brain produces too much CSF.

Joakim BlockstromCopyright: Joakim Blockstrom

Congenital hydrocephalus can occur due to the restriction of flow of CSF caused by brain defects in the developing baby which can be due to certain health conditions like the most serious type of spina bifida. It can also occur in premature babies which experience bleeding in their brain, blocking the flow of CSF and causing hydrocephalus. Other potential causes include X-linked hydrocephalus where the condition occurs as a result of a genetic mutation, rare genetic disorders such as Dandy Walker malformation and arachnoid cysts between the brain or spinal cord and the arachnoid membrane.

Acquired hydrocephalus which develops in adults or children is most often occurs by injury or illness that results in a blockage between the ventricles of the brain. Possible causes include bleeding inside the brain, blood clots inside the blood vessels of the brain, meningitis, tumours, head trauma and stroke.

Anatomical abnormalities
The physical symptoms of hydrocephalus are distinctive, but can vary with age, tolerance and progression of the disease. The characteristic, unusually large cranium is caused by the infant skull’s ability to expand to accommodate the build up of excess CSF. The sutures of the skull, which are not yet closed, provide the flexibility in the cranium to ‘grow’ with the expanding volume. The scalp may be thin with visible veins and the fontanelle (soft spot on the top of a baby’s head) may be tense or bulging. The eyes can also appear to be looking downwards due to nerve damage which can affect the muscles of the eye.

skull-of-a-newbornCopyright: A.D.A.M

Treatment
Without treatment, it is thought that up to 6 in 10 people with hydrocephalus would die. However, most children with hydrocephalus that survive past the age of one will have a fairly normal life span. Patients usually require prompt treatment to reduce the pressure on their brain either by neuroendoscopy or shunt surgery which involves implanting a thin tube into the brain to run the excess cerebrospinal fluid to another part of the body, usually the abdomen, where it can be absorbed into the blood stream.

hydroassoc.orgCopyright:  Hydrocephalus Association

Resources & further reading:

www.hcrn.org
www.hydroassoc.org
www.shinecharity.org.uk
www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hydrocephalus
www.hydroresearchfund.org/learn-about-hydrocephalus
www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1116/mainpageS1116P1.html
www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail_hydrocephalus.htm
www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/103430/cerebrospinal-fluid-CSF