By Maaike Bleeker
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Additional info for Anatomy live : performance and the operating theatre
6 The educational value of postmortems and autopsies, as Park contends, was still rather limited. University professors taught their students the principles of human anatomy by dissecting cadavers, yet: ‘Their goal was not to add to the existing body of knowledge concerning human anatomy and physiology but to help students and doctors understand and remember the texts in which that knowledge was enclosed’ (Park, 1994, p. 14). 7 Galen’s theory of the body – accepted since the fourth century as the only valid theory of physiology – had the highest authority, and it was explicated ex cathedra by a professor or lector.
Three-dimensional reconstructions of real cadavers enable medical students to connect theoretical and empirical knowledge. Like a surgeon who examines radiological information on the screen, students could perform virtual dissections on dead bodies to get a better sense of anatomical structure. 11 This simulation unit will resemble virtual DIGITAL CADAVERS AND VIRTUAL DISSECTION 33 cockpits designed for Starfighter pilots. Both virtual environments offer handson experience without having to endanger real people’s lives.
Indeed, as Jane Goodall has convincingly argued, science and entertainment have long enjoyed a somewhat co-dependent, if often uncomfortable, relationship, particularly during the nineteenth century. Goodall writes of a range of performance practices, from ethnological displays to freak shows, that did not simply parody, pass comment upon or otherwise stand separately from the ‘scientific’ debates of the day. Rather, these performances, she argues, were a forum within which those debates were, in a real sense, played out, both in the imaginations and visceral responses of popular audiences, but in the broader public sphere.
Anatomy live : performance and the operating theatre by Maaike Bleeker