Just imagine the hijinx if they'd had Facebook.
April 29, 2009 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Gather 'Round the Cadaver! : A new "coffee-table" book, Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine is a new collection of photographs documenting what happened when bored medical students of the early 1900s met the camera.
posted by grapefruitmoon (22 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gross anatomy is a lot tamer and more respectful of the donors these days, but the experience remains so jarring and transgressive that you can't help but bring some humor into the lab as a coping mechanism. Even our teachers did it: one instructor never tired of asking "do you need a hand with that?" before theatrically plopping down an entire dissected arm to quiz us on.
posted by killdevil at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2009


Numbers 4, 5 and 6 from that Slate slideshow are just GREAT. Those three pics alone have won you a favorite for this post!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2009


Fascinating stuff. My first reaction was "wow - these are pictures of long dead people posing with people who've been dead even longer."
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:46 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some med students at a former university of mine once reported at a party that a cadaver they were working with evidently had a massive penis, so they wrote MISTER EVERREADY on his forehead in indelible marker.

I believe it was at that moment that I knew for sure I wouldn't donate my body to a university.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:07 PM on April 29, 2009


Completely fascinating, and the Morbid Anatomy blog alone has made me grateful all over again for these great interwebs of ours.
posted by jokeefe at 8:13 PM on April 29, 2009


Just imagine the hijinx if they'd had Facebook.*

Squeamish? Don't click.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dazzling dissection images!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:30 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obligatory Mutter Museum link.
posted by zoinks at 8:47 PM on April 29, 2009


I have thought for a long time that I would probably donate my body to science.

This clinches it.

I wonder if I can specifically request wacky corpse pose photographs?
posted by device55 at 8:51 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


My brother the doctor told me about some of the hijinks, including hiding a cadaver arm up the lab coat sleeve to scare the med students encountering a cadaver for the first time, then letting the arm drop out during a "handshake." There was something else about cadaver eyebrows excised and placed over one's own eyebrows at Halloween.

Mom got a fright on opening the refrigerator at Thanksgiving and there was a skinned, dissected rabbit in there.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:02 PM on April 29, 2009


middleclasstool - I believe it was at that moment that I knew for sure I wouldn't donate my body to a university.

Why, are you worried that your forehead isn't wide enough to host 'MISTER GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS'?
posted by porpoise at 9:27 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


this is awesome.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:27 PM on April 29, 2009


The cover of the book almost looks kinda normal for a second, but the more you look the wierder it gets.
posted by wsg at 12:56 AM on April 30, 2009


I wonder if I can specifically request wacky corpse pose photographs?

"Yeah, hi, I might be interested in donating my body to your organization? Well, I was just wondering what kind of Corpse Hijinx Packages you offer. I'm looking for something with a ski lift, possibly with me dangling underneath a fat man and a midget holding hands."
posted by mannequito at 2:27 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


When we were in college our choir sold quartets singing love songs on Valentines Day, and some medical students ordered one for the cadaver. Unfortunately, they quartet didn't know until they showed up just who they'd be singing to.
posted by nax at 5:29 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


A number of my classmates skipped the anatomy lab most days, or did almost no actual dissection work when in there. The logic was simple: you don't learn that much. In terms of the ubiquitous standardized testing, you won't gain much by having done the (poke-and-separate)x10^4 dance to isolate nerve#132 as opposed to spending that time learning where it's supposed to be and what it ought to do. If you're not going to do surgery or pathology, your patients will all still have skin on and your knowledge of anatomy needs to be mostly in reference to how it's laid out when intact.

Being able to mentally explode a pelvis or hand is occasionally useful, but like a lot of people I think the real function is the implicit curriculum: being able to think of the body as meat and machines when it is convenient and useful to do so and bonding to the profession and classmates.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:10 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Being able to mentally explode a pelvis or hand is occasionally useful

You don't say.
posted by biscotti at 7:48 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


"But I believe the descendants of these anatomical subjects—black and white—deserve some type of apology. Just because we might never identify their actual kin does not render this task unnecessary. Generations of physicians benefited from the use of these bodies—but also chose to treat them in an undignified, and at times repulsive, manner."

You can't offend dead people. This is just ridiculous.
posted by HopperFan at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2009


They're made of meat.
posted by Nelson at 9:21 AM on April 30, 2009


Interestingly, I found this photo among a box of letters and photos from my Great-Grandfather. I'd always assumed that he took it in medical school but it's so similar to photo 6 in the Slate slideshow I now wonder if he had purchased it. Next time I'm at my parent's place I'll have to dig around to see if there are negatives of it.

If anyone knows the history of that 'Student's Dream' photo I'd be very curious to learn more. I have the book on order to see what I can learn.
posted by pombe at 10:20 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can't offend dead people. This is just ridiculous.

Yeah, I found the solemn "oh the humanity" tone in that review annoying. And check this out:

I dissected my first cadaver in the 1980s—a "politically correct" era. Our introductory anatomy lecture implored us to respect the bodies and even referred to them as our "teachers." The year ended with a memorial service for the now-dissected specimens, another tribute to their memory.


Sheesh. I'd a hell of a lot rather hang out with those guys from a century ago.

Great post, and like flapjax, I was particularly impressed with 4, 5 and 6!
posted by languagehat at 10:29 AM on April 30, 2009


WOW. Thanks.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:33 PM on April 30, 2009


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