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Monthly Archives

May 2007

Reality in the making

By Biomedicine in museums

The Finnish artist Ville Lenkkeri from Taideteollinen korkeakoulu (the University of Art and Design in Helsinki) is just now showing the photo exhibit ‘Reality in the Making’ at Peter Lav Photo Gallery in Valby, Copenhagen. One of the pics is this one:

which has more than superficial resemblance with some of the precious objects in our collections at Medical Museion. As the gallery writes in its online presentation:

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Biomedical gestures

By Biomedicine in museums

Science studies scholars seem to have investigated almost all aspects of science in laboratories — except bodily gestures. Artists Herwig Turk and Günter Stöger are now exploring this neglected dimension of science in their installation “setting04_0006″ which is on display in the group exhibit “Say it isn’t so” in Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen until 16 September 2007. See a Youtube video of the installation here.

“Gestures are part of laboratory life, as are objects and scientist”, Turk and Stöger point out. In previous projects (see, e.g. here) they examined the perception of spaces when humans were removed and objects assumed centre-stage: “The object created an unambiguous and sharp language conveying new meaning and an alien identity to the laboratory space” (sounds like a traditional museum gallery to me :-).

However, in “setting04_0006” both human entities and objects have been eliminated:

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A new spontaneous biomed/biotech epistemology?

By Biomedicine in museums

When I took my undergraduate courses in philosophy of science, the general dogma — laid down by mid-20th century philosophers and historians of science like Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos and Thomas Kuhn — was that logical empiricism was naïve and that the experimental sciences were thoroughly theory-laden. Post-Kuhnian science studies didn’t change this epistemological dogma; surely the Edinburgh school opened the black-box of scientific practice and actor network theorists eschewed epistemological issues altogether, but for the last fifty years or so nobody has ever really suggested that science might be an basically observation (data) driven enterprise.

But there are many signs that biomed/biotech practitioners are about to work out a new spontaneous philosophy of science. The whole jargon of systems biology (‘robust’ data, ‘high throughput analysis’) is based on the notion that hypotheses and theories can somehow be harvested from observational data. And in the editorial of the last issue (#2, 27 April 2007) of Lab TimesCraig Wenter’s recent large-scale collection of ocean bacterial genomic DNA is defended against critics who have suggested that such data hoovering is mindless because it doesn’t have the solution of any specific scientific problems in mind. In the editors’ words:

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A few days out of touch

By Biomedicine in museums

Blogs need some rest, too. Communicative vacation. Return to the materiality of life. This humble blog is no exception. But we’re back soonish (in a few days). Until then, search our archives — you’ll be amazed to find how many good posts there were back in 2006 and 2005. 

23andMe and converging technologies

By Biomedicine in museums

The recently announced marriage between Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki is not just an innocent piece of celebrity news (the circumstances of the Bahamas beach wedding last week are perfectly romantic though :-). It also signifies one of the basic tendencies in contemporary technoscience, viz. the web-based convergence between postgenomics and information technology.

Sergey Brin doesn’t need much of an introduction. But Anne Wojcicki, a molecular biologist, has been less known until recently. Last autumn, however, she founded 23andMe, a biotech-oriented start-up webcompany. The goal of

is “to take advantage of new genotyping technologies and help consumers explore their genetics, informed by cutting edge science”:

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Ph.D. defence: Jesper V. Kragh on Danish psychosurgery, 1922-1983

By Biomedicine in museums

Our own Jesper V. Kragh publicly defends his Ph.D. thesis “Det hvide snit: Psykokirurgi og dansk psykiatri 1922-1983″ [The White Cut: Psychosurgery and Danish Psychiatry, 1922-1983”] in the old auditorium of Medical Museion on June 1, 1-4 PM.

Based on close readings and statistical analysis of 50 years of patient records from one of the Danish national psychiatric hospitals, Jesper has described the introduction of methods such as malaria treatment, electroshock therapy and especially lobotomy in Danish psychiatric practice.

After some deliberations Jesper has chosen this photo of a stereotactical instrument as a web illustration — it was used in the 1960s and 1970s for precision brain surgery of psychiatric patients at Rigshospitalet [the National Hospital] in Copenhagen:

Thesis supervisor was Thomas Söderqvist, Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen, and the thesis was evaluated by Lene Koch, Dept of Public Health Services, University of Copenhagen (chairman) and external opponents Ingemar Nilsson, University of Gothenburg, and Roger Qvarsell, University of Linköping.

The defence starts at 13.00 and may continue for up to three hours. Come and listen — and join us for a glass of wine afterwards to congratulate Jesper to a very good thesis!

Here’s the summary of the thesis:

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Medical Museion through Gustav Holmberg's camera lens

By Biomedicine in museums

I found these wonderful photos from Medical Museion on 5063, one of historian of science and amateur photographer Gustav Holmberg’s websites:


A lonely and anonymous skeleton in one of the storage rooms on 3rd floor; the wooden sculpture of the martyr St. Sebastian (protector of plague victims) in the staircase; and postdoc Jan Eric Olsén in a contemplative mood. Much more Gustav photos (but unfortunately not more from Medical Museion) here. Welcome back, Gustav!

Fictional biomed/biotech websites?

By Biomedicine in museums

In two earlier posts I discussed two excellent mock biomedical/biotech websites — Justine Cooper’s Big Pharma-look-alike Havidol site and Adam Brandejs’s Genpet site, but otherwise I haven’t found anything worthwhile. (Browsing around I found an apparently quite famous porn site mockery –the horny manatee site — created by an NBC team after Conan O’Brian had invented the idea in a November 2006 show; see the story behind the site here. That’s fun but it’s not quite what I’m looking for right now.)

I’ve asked Justine if she knows about any other clever mock medical websites out there except for her own and Adam Brandejs’s, but she hasn’t seen one either. Does anyone else know?

The nanopump — a new icon of contemporary and future biomedicine

By Biomedicine in museums

Since 2004 Medical Museion has used a common commercial microarray (Affymetrix’s GeneChip®) as an icon for our collecting and display efforts.

The GeneChip has many of the features that characterise the ongoing biomedical ‘revolution’: it symbolises molecularisation and digitalisation of medicine (at least in diagnostics) and it’s a fine example of the progressive miniaturisation of medical technology and clinical practices. Read more in this earlier post about the GeneChip as an exhibition artefact.

But I guess we are increasingly growing tired of the GeneChip. We have used it in literally hundreds of seminars and lectures over the last three years to illustrate the historiographical and museological road we are travelling on. So I think it’s time to shift iconic artefact (and also stop promoting, by default, a Californian medical technology company).

So here is another possible icon – the Nanopump™ invented by the Swiss firm Debiotech and winner of the Swiss Technology Award in 2006:

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