Amazing Anatomical Photographs from Alec Fraser’s Handbook of Brain Surgery, 1890


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library

It is difficult to categorize these photographs as art, since they are educational material. However, they are prepared, preserved, and photographed so carefully and even maniacally that one cannot help but see the whole thing as an art object. The photos were taken for The Handbook of Brain Surgery by surgeon Alec Fraser.

This edition, published in 1890, was cutting-edge. Mr. Fraser developed his own method of preserving the brain, his own solution and excelled in the art of photography. As a matter of fact, he was originally a very good surgeon and trained as a professional photographer specifically for this manual (which took him about six months).

h/t: flashbak


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library

Each image in the book is to be viewed in order as a series. Fraser slices into the human head layer by layer:

“When I first began to make serial dissections it was essential for me to know whether the head always occupied the same position when it was replaced in its mould. In order to make sure of this I laid aside a double back with two plates, exposing each of them for the skin view, then again each of them for three or four different serial views, such as the external or median surface of the brain, for as many dissections as I thought would be a sufficient test for determining the object mentioned above, giving to each view a fourth or fifth of the exposure necessary for the making of a single serial negative.

I was highly pleased to find, not only that the heads after their return to their mould always occupied the same position, but also that I had here a fertile means of showing the relations of the deeper parts to the skin surface.”


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library


Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library

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