Public Anatomies in Fin - de - Siècle Vienna

Medicine Studies 2 (1):71-92 (2010)
Anatomical exhibitions, online atlases and televised dissections have recently attracted much attention and raised questions concerning the status of and the authority over the human body, the purpose of anatomical education within and outside medical schools and the methods of teaching in the digital age. I propose that for understanding the current public views of anatomy, we need to gain insight into their historical development. This article focuses on anatomies accessible to non-medical audiences in the capital of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna, at the time when the city was the seat of a world-leading medical school. Anatomy at the University of Vienna was famous for its research, instruction and the abundant provision with dissectible corpses. Public anatomies were equally rich and ranged from exhibitions at the Präuscher’s Panoptikon und Anatomisches Museum , established in 1871 in the Prater amusement park, lectures on human and comparative anatomy by the university professor Carl Bernhard Brühl (1863–1890), to displays of anatomical objects at the World Exhibition in 1873. I finish by discussing a collection of letters written by the prospective ‘cadaver donors’, offering an insight into the ways in which medical encounters and anatomical knowledge informed the working-class views of their bodies. By looking at the kinds of anatomy in circulation, as well as at the participants in these exchanges, I want to illuminate the relationship between academic and public anatomies, as well as to reveal the purposes to which public anatomy served.
Keywords Anatomy  Vienna  Dissection  Public  Education  Knowledge circulation
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