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Biomedicine in museums

The telescopic body

We’re used to think of the ‘microscopic body’ that was invented in the mid-19th century as a continuation of the ‘anatomical body’. Now, exploring “different modes of visuality (pre-modern, modern, post-modern) in medical-science imagery”, Kristen Ehrenberger, an MD and doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggests the concept of the ‘telescopic body’, a form of representation that “situates individuals in relation to society from the level of the microscopic insides of a person’s insides all the way up to the national level”.

This sounds like an interesting addition to the array of ‘scopics’ that historians of medicine are increasingly using in their analytical work. There are also possible museological implications; for example, I’m curious to know how the notion of ‘telescopic body’ connects with the presentation Kristen made a couple of years ago on “The Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden, the Transparent Man, and productive science museum memory”. Food for discussion!

The idea of a ‘telescopic body’ is the topic for a seminar at the National Library of Medicine next Wednesday, August 1. For details about this and other history of medicine seminars at the NLM, see here.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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