Editor's note: Viewer caution - this video contains graphic representations of invasive surgery.
Contributor(s): Christelle Rabier
Released on 31 October 2011.
In this short film, Wellcome Fellow Christelle Rabier of LSE's department of Economic History narrates the invention of medical illustration 1708-1820. Images courtesy and copyright of The Wellcome Library.
In the eighteenth century, surgeons were rapidly developing new techniques for invasive surgery. But how to transmit this information? Only a very few students at a time would be able to watch a procedure, and even then, it wasn't clear what was happening amid the throng of assistants required to restrain the un-anaesthetised patient.
Early medical illustrations offer little information to the prospective surgeon, but over the course of a hundred years, a series of conventions emerged - cross-sections for interior views, dotted lines for motion, and the transposition of multiple sequential events onto the same plate - all of which meant that by the beginning of the nineteenth century, illustrators were able to depict the actual process of surgery, and spread medical innovations further afield than the confines of a single theatre.