Dr. Stanley Burns has collected over 1-million medical photographs from the 1800s and early 1900s, when posing for a professional portrait in the style of a painting was trendy.
For a doctor or surgeon, this meant posing stiffly and solemnly with bones, cadavers, and medical tools. But the earnestness didn’t always come without a sense of morbid humor, as shown in photos like the 1890 “Group Portrait” of three sitting cadavers (two in chairs) holding hands with a group of men who act as if nothing is out of the ordinary. If a medical student today posed humorously with a dead body, it might be judged as inappropriate, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case over 100 years ago.
Not all of these early photographs include medical professionals. Some only portray X-rays, skeletons or bones, many that tell a fragment of a story, like the skull with a hammer sticking out of it titled, “Harvey Morgan – killed by Indians – 1870,” or the skull with a puzzle-piece hole in its side titled, “Bull Run Battle Field Find, Perforation of the Cranium by a Musket Ball.” Although most of the photos in this book are easy enough to digest, I had a squeamish time with the photos of living patients who had rare conditions, such as the skinny 15-year-old boy missing both clavicles (1907) and the naked, unhappy-looking “Hemi Man” (1907) with “multiple congenital deformities.” Originally shot for others in the medical field to view and study, the over-400 photographs in this book, written by Dr. Burns and his daughter Elizabeth, weren’t meant for the layperson and have never been published until now.
Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism
See sample pages from this book at Wink.
I first met Bill Gibson in 1999 when I was profiling him for the Globe and Mail as part of a review of his book "All Tomorrow's Parties." Since then, we've become friends and colleagues, and I genuinely treasure every chance I get to sit down with him, because he's both fantastically clever and incredibly […]
Well this is pretty great! Radicalized, my book of four novellas, is one of the CBC's picks for best Canadian fiction of 2019. It's in pretty outstanding company, too, including Margaret Atwood's The Testaments.
Here’s 28 of our favorites from the last year – not all of them published in the last year, mind you – from fairy-tales to furious politics and everything in between, including the furious fairy-tale politics getting between everything. The links here include Amazon Affiliate codes; this helps us make ends meet at Boing Boing, […]
Cheap massage chairs are a common Christmas gift, but we’re willing to bet they don’t get a lot of actual use from the people who could really use a massage. We’re talking about people with deep, chronic joint pain or anyone who does a serious workout on a regular basis. For that kind of soreness, […]
The bummers of adulthood are too many to count, but one of our least favorites is the inability to sit down and enjoy a nice bowl of cereal. When you’ve got a long commute ahead, let’s face it: That extra time it takes to pour the milk and chow down is too precious to spare. […]
Who are these people that have time for a job, social life, and actual healthy meals? With a nutrition segment on seemingly every talk show and entire networks devoted to food, it can sometimes seem like we’ve never left our mother’s house and her constant admonitions to “eat your vegetables!” And okay, she was right. […]