John Ptak, a scientific book dealer who has written many pieces for Boing Boing in the past, says:
"And so I came to this book. It's one of the worst things that I have here, and I think it's time for it to go. But in the meantime I posted this about it.
"It's an atlas of fetal movement — stills taken from movies made of poking fetuses with needles in surgically removed placentas. It is concentration camp stuff, only done under the direction of the American Philosophical Society at the Medical School of the University of Pittsburgh in 1939.
"I think that this needs to be shared."
Wisely, John chose not to include any of the images from the booklet. I sure don't want to see them. Here's an excerpt from John's post on his blog:
I can think of no other more disgusting atlas than this — not for the activities of the fetuses, but how they were made to be "active."
The "this" that I'm talking about is the way in which the fetuses pictured in this atlas of activity were made to be in motion: the fetuses experienced needle stimulations to their faces, and hands, and arms, and so on. Needles inserted, movie images made, experiments undertaken on the development of human fetal activity. 42 fetuses subjected to experimentation, physiological and morphological, poked with needles to determine how they would respond during the integral period of development of motility (from the 8th to 14th weeks, in regard to reflexes). The fetuses float in front of the camera unencumbered, and then the long and very pointed needle comes into view, finding its target, then a series of stills from the film made to show how the fetus moved in reaction to having been touched or abraised.
The subject fetuses were "derived from either hysterectomy or hysterotomy… undertaken in the interest of the health, sanity or life of the mother." My understanding from another source (a verbal description from 15 years ago from a very well placed historian of the history of medicine) was that all of the subjects/mothers were African Americans.