Incredible human dissection photos on Flickr

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The Stanford University Medical Center's Bassett Collection consists of more than 1500 gorgeous photographs of human dissection from the middle of the last century. Stanford anatomy professor David Bassett was considered a master of dissection and his photographs are still used widely in anatomy textbooks. Now, the gorgeous annotated dissection photos are making their way online. The University has posted a selection of the photos for free on Flickr while is handling the commercial end of things. From Stanford's Medical Center Report Archive:
It was Bassett’s genius for dissection that attracted the attention of William Gruber, the photographer who invented the View-Master, a stereoscopic viewing device familiar to most children. A 17-year collaboration between the two resulted in the production of the Stereoscopic Atlas of Human Anatomy begun in 1948 and not completed until 1962. It consisted of 221 View-Master reels with 1,554 color stereo views of dissections of every body region. Each stereo view was accompanied by a black-and-white, labeled drawing and explanatory text.

“It was very popular nationally,” (curator Dr. Robert) Chase said. “When Bassett first showed the images, lines formed around the block to see them.”

“Although they’re 50 years old, the pictures were taken with high-resolution Kodak film,” said (anatomy professor Paul) Brown, explaining why the images have held up over the decades. “This is what they looked like before we got them,” he said holding up the original View-Master reels. “One can see how the nerve enters the jaw. It is possible to see inside of the sinus cavity. Look at the quality. It’s just fabulous.”
Link to article, Link to Flickr set, Link to eHuman Bassett Dissection page (Thanks, John Stafford!)


  1. I can recall circa 1978 a kid who let us look under a bandage and into a cut he had on his finger and the flesh inside was much the same colour as that. I wonder now if the finger survived.

  2. Even more amazing is the “Stereoscopic Atlas of Venereal Diseases,” which I once got via interlibrary loan. Those disks ought to come with a View-Master with a built-in eyewash station. Bleugh!

    There are also some very beautiful View-Master collections of cactus and succulents, as well as mushrooms and fungi — the latter collection is truly stunning.

  3. Whenever I see pictures like this, I’m amazed that any of it works at all. For me, the inherent messiness and inefficiency of the “design” basically precludes the existence of any “designer.” It could be done much better if it weren’t just a slowly-developed pile of kruft, like an organic version of Windows.

  4. “gorgeous photographs of human dissection”

    This just sounds so wrong. I try not to think about how my body works because it’s scary. Too fragile.

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