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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Science:

Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree
My friend and I travelled to Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire today, the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, and the likely setting of the famous ‘apple incident’. We saw the room where he was born, and the bedroom where he conducted experiments with light, but by far the most interesting thing was the apple tree in the grounds just outside.
The story of an apple dropping from a tree having inspired Newton’s theory of gravity is confirmed in the writings of some of Newton’s closest friends. William Stukeley, Newton’s biographer, for example, wrote in 1726 how Newton told him, as the strolled below apple trees in Kensington, how:

… he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to himself; occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood. “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths center? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. 

[Sources: Photograph: Mine | Woolsthorpe Manor | Isaac Newton] 

Isaac Newton’s Apple Tree

My friend and I travelled to Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire today, the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, and the likely setting of the famous ‘apple incident’. We saw the room where he was born, and the bedroom where he conducted experiments with light, but by far the most interesting thing was the apple tree in the grounds just outside.

The story of an apple dropping from a tree having inspired Newton’s theory of gravity is confirmed in the writings of some of Newton’s closest friends. William Stukeley, Newton’s biographer, for example, wrote in 1726 how Newton told him, as the strolled below apple trees in Kensington, how:

… he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to himself; occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood. “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths center? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. 

[Sources: Photograph: Mine | Woolsthorpe Manor | Isaac Newton

The Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguins
The Sexual Habits Of The Adélie Penguins is a 100-year-old paper graphically describing the bizarre sexual practices of Adélie penguins written by George Levick, who joined Captain Scott on his Terra Nova expedition in 1911. He spent an entire Antarctic summer studying the reproductive behaviour of the species. 

As a post-Edwardian gentleman, Levick was understandably taken aback by the “astonishingly depraved” acts he saw, and struggled to describe them. Douglas Russell, of the Natural History Museum’s zoology department, says “He witnesses things that profoundly shock him, to the point of being incapable of even writing them in English — he was so worried about it he started to encode it in Greek.” Nevertheless, he took to the task at hand and wrote in extraordinary detail of the “hooligan cocks … whose passions seemed to have passed beyond their control”.

Surrounded by tens of thousands of rampantly copulating birds - “sometimes more than once a day”, Levick notes with awe - he depicted a city under attack by delinquents on the verge: “Many of the colonies … are plagued by little knots of ‘hooligans’ who hang about their outskirts, and should a chick go astray it stands a good chance of losing its life at their hands. It is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness.”

He also gives accounts of apparent necrophilia, however, necrophilia, as Levick perceived it, is a human term, and therefore hardly likely to explain penguin behaviour. Low temperatures in the Antarctic did preserve countless dead birds and, male or female, if their frozen corpses happened to be assuming the position, a passing penguin could not pass up the opportunity to mount it. You can understand Levick’s suspicions.

Levick went on to witness what he struggles to describe as a kind of gang rape, with one female paralysed by the cold water [which is] spotted by [a male] and, “after a short inspection, he deliberately copulated with her, she being, of course, quite unable to resist him,” before six more try their luck, with varying degrees of success. The behaviours themselves can all be explained away now, of course, and are detailed here.

Levick’s thinly veiled judgement demonstrates a common practice that many fall into. “There is a dreadful habit of anthropomorphising penguins, dominantly because they are bipedal,” says Russell. Levick was therefore appalled by the behaviours he saw, holding the Adélie population up against human standards of morality: “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,” he comments at one point. One reviewer of Levick’s published paper put it well when he said in 1915: “The book is unique, and will appeal to… the public at large for whom these strange, erect, man-like little birds have a strange fascination.” 
[Source]

The Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguins

The Sexual Habits Of The Adélie Penguins is a 100-year-old paper graphically describing the bizarre sexual practices of Adélie penguins written by George Levick, who joined Captain Scott on his Terra Nova expedition in 1911. He spent an entire Antarctic summer studying the reproductive behaviour of the species. 

As a post-Edwardian gentleman, Levick was understandably taken aback by the “astonishingly depraved” acts he saw, and struggled to describe them. Douglas Russell, of the Natural History Museum’s zoology department, says “He witnesses things that profoundly shock him, to the point of being incapable of even writing them in English — he was so worried about it he started to encode it in Greek.” Nevertheless, he took to the task at hand and wrote in extraordinary detail of the “hooligan cocks … whose passions seemed to have passed beyond their control”.

Surrounded by tens of thousands of rampantly copulating birds - “sometimes more than once a day”, Levick notes with awe - he depicted a city under attack by delinquents on the verge: “Many of the colonies … are plagued by little knots of ‘hooligans’ who hang about their outskirts, and should a chick go astray it stands a good chance of losing its life at their hands. It is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness.”

He also gives accounts of apparent necrophilia, however, necrophilia, as Levick perceived it, is a human term, and therefore hardly likely to explain penguin behaviour. Low temperatures in the Antarctic did preserve countless dead birds and, male or female, if their frozen corpses happened to be assuming the position, a passing penguin could not pass up the opportunity to mount it. You can understand Levick’s suspicions.

Levick went on to witness what he struggles to describe as a kind of gang rape, with one female paralysed by the cold water [which is] spotted by [a male] and, “after a short inspection, he deliberately copulated with her, she being, of course, quite unable to resist him,” before six more try their luck, with varying degrees of success. The behaviours themselves can all be explained away now, of course, and are detailed here.

Levick’s thinly veiled judgement demonstrates a common practice that many fall into. “There is a dreadful habit of anthropomorphising penguins, dominantly because they are bipedal,” says Russell. Levick was therefore appalled by the behaviours he saw, holding the Adélie population up against human standards of morality: “There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,” he comments at one point. One reviewer of Levick’s published paper put it well when he said in 1915: “The book is unique, and will appeal to… the public at large for whom these strange, erect, man-like little birds have a strange fascination.” 

[Source]

Thomas Edison’s Secret Spirit Experiments

Called “The Wizard of Menlo Park” Thomas Edison was one of history’s most brilliant and prolific inventors, holding 1,093 U.S. patents. He [was] responsible for the creation or development of many devices that changed the way people lived, including the electric light bulb, the motion picture camera and projector, and the phonograph. It has also long been in speculated in paranormal circles that Edison also created a ghost box – a machine to talk to the dead, which must have been somehow lost. 

In an interview in the October, 1920 issue of The American Magazine Edison is quoted as having said: "I have been at work for some time building an apparatus to see if it is possible for personalities which have left this earth to communicate with us." Then, another interview, quotes him as saying, "I have been thinking for some time of a machine or apparatus which could be operated by personalities which have passed on to another existence or sphere." Somewhat contradictorily, the latter article adds, despite Edison’s quote, that "the apparatus which he is reported to be building is still in the experimental stage…" as if there is a prototype. However, no prototypes or schematics have ever been found. 

At the time psychic mediums were all the rage and it was becoming increasing popular to think that it might be possible to communicate with the dead. And if it was possible, Edison reasoned that it could be accomplished through scientific means:

"I don’t claim that our personalities pass on to another existence or sphere … because I don’t know anything about the subject … But I do claim that it is possible to construct an apparatus which will be so delicate that if there are personalities in another existence or sphere who wish to get in touch with us in this existence or sphere, the apparatus will at least give them a better opportunity to express themselves than the tilting tables and raps and ouija boards and mediums and the other crude methods now purported to be the only means of communication."

Edison’s was a scientist’s approach: “I believe that if we are to make any real progress in psychic investigation,” he said, “we must do it with scientific apparatus and in a scientific manner, just as we do in medicine, electricity, chemistry, and other fields.” We have no evidence for the device having been built, yet it is possible that it was constructed then destroyed along with all the paperwork - perhaps because it didn’t work and Edison wanted to avoid embarrassment after his proclamations in the interviews.

[SourceImages Source : a 1933 article on the subject from Modern Mechanics and Inventions]

Clairvius Narcisse: Dead Man Walking

When I was at Uni this kind of thing was the focus of my dissertation and I find it absolutely fascinating:

In April, 1962,  [Clairvius Narcisse] checked himself into hospital in the town of Deschapelle in Haiti. [He] had been sick for some time, complaining of fever, body aches, and general malaise, but recently had begun coughing up blood. His condition deteriorated rapidly. Physicians noted that Narcisse suffered from digestive disorders, pulmonary edema, hypothermia, respiratory difficulties, and hypotension … his lips turned blue [and] he reported tingling sensations all over his body. Two days later his two attending physicians, one of whom was American and the other American-trained, pronounced Narcisse dead and he was buried the next day.

Eighteen years later, [his sister] was walking through the village marketplace when she was approached by someone claiming to be Clairvius Narcisse. The man identified himself by a boyhood nickname which which was known only to members of the immediate family, and he had a bizarre tale to tell…    

He said that as he was pronounced dead he felt as if his skin was on fire, with insects crawling beneath it. He heard his sister Angelina weeping and felt the sheet being pulled up over his face. Although he was unable to move or speak, he remained lucid and aware the entire time, even as his coffin was nailed shut and buried. He even had a scar which he claimed was sustained as one of the coffin nails was driven through his face. There he remained, for how long he did not know, until the coffin as opened by the bokor (sorcerer) and his henchmen. He was beaten into submission, bound, gagged, and spirited away to a sugar plantation that was to be his home for the next two years.    

On the plantation, Narcisse and other zombies labored from sunup to sunset, pausing for only one meal a day. He would later report that he passed his time there in a dream-like state, devoid of will or volition, with events unfolding before him as if in slow motion. They were given a paste made from datura which at certain doses has a hallucinogenic effect and can cause memory loss. When the boker was killed, and the regular doses of the hallucinogen stopped, the slaves were able to regain their senses and escape.    

Two scientists investigating Narcisse’s claims have concluded that Narcisse was initially poisoned by a dose of a chemical mixture containing tetrodotoxin (pufferfish venom) and bufotoxin (toad venom) to induce a coma which mimicked the appearance of death. The instigator of the poisoning was thought to be Narcisse’s brother, with whom he had quarrelled over land. Upon returning to his village after the death of his brother Narcisse was immediately recognised. When he told the story of how he was dug up from his grave and enslaved, the villagers were surprised, but accepted his story because they believed that his experience was a result of voodoo magic.    

[Sources: Much more detailed article here : Wikipedia]

The Boy in the Bubble

Born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), a disorder preventing the immune system from working, David Vetter, or ‘The Boy in the Bubble’, became famous during his short life for living in a completely sterile environment. At the time this was the only option for children born with SCID until a bone marrow transplant could be performed. 

Ten seconds after being born David was placed inside a specially sterilised chamber, where he would remain, for the most part, for the rest of his life. It had been expected that a David’s sister would donate bone marrow, however, she was not a match. Everything that entered the cocoon had to be first sterilised in a chamber of ethylene oxide at 60˚C for four hours before being aerated for seven days. David was touched only through plastic gloves that lined the walls of the cocoon. 

He was given as normal a life as possible, with a formal education and access to television, although on one occasion he complained: “Why school? Why did you make me learn to read? What good will it do? I won’t ever be able to do anything anyway. So why?”His condition was explained to him when, at four years old, he realised he could poke holes in his cocoon.

As David grew so did the cocoon and, as he longed to explore what he saw out of the window and on TV, a transport chamber and an additional cocoon at his parents’ home were built. On one occasion he attended a screening of Return of the Jedi at a local cinema in his transport chamber. Furthermore, researchers at NASA constructed a suit that would allow David to walk around more freely, though David was somewhat resistant to using it.

Due to a lack of proper human contact David’s behaviour grew increasingly erratic. As he entered his teens he became angry and depressed and was perpetually anxious about germs, experiencing repeated nightmares about ‘The King of Germs’. The case raised numerous ethical questions, the government discussed cutting funding for research into finding a cure, and public support lacked.

Then, in 1983, the doctors that had initially encouraged David’s parents to have David in the first place, proposed to give him an unmatched bone marrow transplant. Initially it seemed that transplant had gone well, and there was hope that David might be able to leave the bubble, however, a few months later David became sick for the first time in his life; suffering diarrhea, fever, severe vomiting and intestinal bleeding. David had to be taken out of the bubble for treatment. Out of the bubble, he worsened and sank into a coma. His mother was able to touch his skin for the first and last time. He died on February 22, 1984 aged 12.

[Written with help from this article and Wikipedia]

[Image Sources: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4]

Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter

She sells seashells on the seashoreThe shells she sells are seashells, I’m sureSo if she sells seashells on the seashoreThen I’m sure she sells seashore shells. - about Mary Anning.
Mary Anning was a 19th century fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist who became famous for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis, Dorset, where she lived. Fossil collecting was in vogue in the early 19th century, at first as a pastime, but gradually transforming into a science as the importance of fossils to geology and biology was understood. Anning’s work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.
Anning searched for fossils particularly during the winter when landslides exposed new fossils that had to be collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. It was dangerous work, and she nearly lost her life in 1833 during a landslide that killed her dog.
Her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified, which she found when she was just twelve; the first plesiosaur skeletons ever found; the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany; and important fish fossils. Her observations played a key role in the discovery that coprolites were fossilised faeces.
Anning’s gender and social class prevented her from fully participating in the scientific community of the period, dominated as it was by wealthy gentlemen. However, she became well known in geological circles the world over, and was consulted on all issues of anatomy and fossil collecting. Nonetheless, as a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London, and she did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions. Indeed, she wrote in a letter: “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.”

Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter

She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells. - about Mary Anning.

Mary Anning was a 19th century fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist who became famous for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis, Dorset, where she lived. Fossil collecting was in vogue in the early 19th century, at first as a pastime, but gradually transforming into a science as the importance of fossils to geology and biology was understood. Anning’s work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

Anning searched for fossils particularly during the winter when landslides exposed new fossils that had to be collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. It was dangerous work, and she nearly lost her life in 1833 during a landslide that killed her dog.

Her discoveries included the first ichthyosaur skeleton to be correctly identified, which she found when she was just twelve; the first plesiosaur skeletons ever found; the first pterosaur skeleton located outside Germany; and important fish fossils. Her observations played a key role in the discovery that coprolites were fossilised faeces.

Anning’s gender and social class prevented her from fully participating in the scientific community of the period, dominated as it was by wealthy gentlemen. However, she became well known in geological circles the world over, and was consulted on all issues of anatomy and fossil collecting. Nonetheless, as a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London, and she did not always receive full credit for her scientific contributions. Indeed, she wrote in a letter: “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.”

(Source: Wikipedia)

Typhoid Mary
Mary Mallon [foreground above] was born in Northern Ireland in 1869 but emigrated to the USA in ‘84. She worked as a cook in New York, where, within two weeks of her first employment, the residents developed typhoid fever. After this, each family for whom Mary worked invariably became ill with typhoid. Wherever Mary went outbreaks followed her. When one family she worked for rented a house in Oyster Bay for the summer, six of the eleven people in the house came down with typhoid, a disease said by local doctors to be “unusual” at that time.
Typhoid researcher George Soper was hired to investigate. He published his results saying he believed soft clams might be the source of the outbreak and that:

"It was found that the family changed cooks … about three weeks before the typhoid epidemic broke out. She remained in the family only a short time, leaving about three weeks after the outbreak occurred. The cook was described as an Irish woman about 40 years of age, tall, heavy, single. She seemed to be in perfect health."

No one knew her whereabouts but eventually Soper traced her to an active outbreak in a Park Avenue penthouse. When Soper approached Mallon she adamantly rejected his request for urine and stool samples.
The New York City Health Department sent Dr. Sara Josephine Baker to talk to Mary but still she refused to cooperate, believing she was being persecuted because she was an immigrant. A few days later, Baker arrived at Mary’s workplace with several police officers who took her into custody. Cultures of Mary’s urine and stools, taken forcibly with the help of prison matrons, revealed that her gallbladder was teeming with typhoid salmonella. She refused to have her gallbladder extracted or to give up her occupation as cook, maintaining stubbornly that she did not carry any disease. 
She was held in isolation for three years until, in 1910, she agreed that she “[was] prepared to change her occupation, and would give assurance by affidavit that she would upon her release take such hygienic precautions as would protect those with whom she came in contact”. Upon release, Mallon was given a job as a laundress, which paid lower wages, so she changed her name to Mary Brown and returned to her previous occupation as a cook. For the next five years, she went through a series of kitchens, spreading illness and death, keeping one step ahead of Soper.
In 1915, a serious epidemic of typhoid erupted among the staff of a hospital, with twenty five cases and two deaths. City health authorities investigated, learning that a portly Irish-American woman had suddenly disappeared from the kitchen help. The police tracked her to an estate on Long Island. Mary spent the rest of her life in quarantine until, aged 69, she died of pneumonia.

Typhoid Mary

Mary Mallon [foreground above] was born in Northern Ireland in 1869 but emigrated to the USA in ‘84. She worked as a cook in New York, where, within two weeks of her first employment, the residents developed typhoid fever. After this, each family for whom Mary worked invariably became ill with typhoid. Wherever Mary went outbreaks followed her. When one family she worked for rented a house in Oyster Bay for the summer, six of the eleven people in the house came down with typhoid, a disease said by local doctors to be “unusual” at that time.

Typhoid researcher George Soper was hired to investigate. He published his results saying he believed soft clams might be the source of the outbreak and that:

"It was found that the family changed cooks … about three weeks before the typhoid epidemic broke out. She remained in the family only a short time, leaving about three weeks after the outbreak occurred. The cook was described as an Irish woman about 40 years of age, tall, heavy, single. She seemed to be in perfect health."

No one knew her whereabouts but eventually Soper traced her to an active outbreak in a Park Avenue penthouse. When Soper approached Mallon she adamantly rejected his request for urine and stool samples.

The New York City Health Department sent Dr. Sara Josephine Baker to talk to Mary but still she refused to cooperate, believing she was being persecuted because she was an immigrant. A few days later, Baker arrived at Mary’s workplace with several police officers who took her into custody. Cultures of Mary’s urine and stools, taken forcibly with the help of prison matrons, revealed that her gallbladder was teeming with typhoid salmonella. She refused to have her gallbladder extracted or to give up her occupation as cook, maintaining stubbornly that she did not carry any disease. 

She was held in isolation for three years until, in 1910, she agreed that she “[was] prepared to change her occupation, and would give assurance by affidavit that she would upon her release take such hygienic precautions as would protect those with whom she came in contact”. Upon release, Mallon was given a job as a laundress, which paid lower wages, so she changed her name to Mary Brown and returned to her previous occupation as a cook. For the next five years, she went through a series of kitchens, spreading illness and death, keeping one step ahead of Soper.

In 1915, a serious epidemic of typhoid erupted among the staff of a hospital, with twenty five cases and two deaths. City health authorities investigated, learning that a portly Irish-American woman had suddenly disappeared from the kitchen help. The police tracked her to an estate on Long Island. Mary spent the rest of her life in quarantine until, aged 69, she died of pneumonia.

Earnst Haeckel’s Christmas Cards

All the sweet things that the squiddies,
Twittering in the dewy spray,
Wish each other in the springtime,
I wish you this happy day. 

Marine themed Christmas cards from Earnst Haeckel, the eminent German biologist, naturalist,  philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, stem cell, and the kingdom Protista. [Wikipedia]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 16th

(Source: retronaut.com)

Galvanic Reanimation of the Dead
In biology, galvanism is the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. The effect was named after the scientist Luigi Galvani, who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 18th century. When Galvani was doing some dissection work in his lab, his scalpel touched the body of a frog, and he saw the muscles in the frog’s leg twitch. Galvani referred to the phenomenon as animal electricity, believing that he had discovered a distinct form of electricity. [Source]
Two decades later, Galvani’s nephew, Giovanni Aldini, took the process one step further when he applied it to the corpses of humans. In 1803 he performed experiments in public on the severed heads of ‘malefactors,’ despatched in Bologna and London. The following accounts demonstrate what was witnessed:

"George Forster was hung … at Newgate Prison, for the drowning of his wife and youngest child in the Paddington Canal. After hanging for an hour in sub-zero temperatures, Aldini procured the body and began his galvanic experiments. On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion. Mr Pass, the beadle of the Surgeons’ Company, who was officially present during this experiment, was so alarmed that he died of fright soon after his return home.”


"[The galvanic] stimulus produced the most horrible contortions and grimaces by the motions of the muscles of the head and face; and an hour and a quarter after death, the arm of one of the bodies was elevated eight inches from the table on which it was supported, and this even when a considerable weight was placed in the hand."

There is much speculation that Aldini’s experiments were the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. 

Galvanic Reanimation of the Dead

In biology, galvanism is the contraction of a muscle that is stimulated by an electric current. The effect was named after the scientist Luigi Galvani, who investigated the effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 18th century. When Galvani was doing some dissection work in his lab, his scalpel touched the body of a frog, and he saw the muscles in the frog’s leg twitch. Galvani referred to the phenomenon as animal electricity, believing that he had discovered a distinct form of electricity. [Source]

Two decades later, Galvani’s nephew, Giovanni Aldini, took the process one step further when he applied it to the corpses of humans. In 1803 he performed experiments in public on the severed heads of ‘malefactors,’ despatched in Bologna and London. The following accounts demonstrate what was witnessed:

"George Forster was hung … at Newgate Prison, for the drowning of his wife and youngest child in the Paddington Canal. After hanging for an hour in sub-zero temperatures, Aldini procured the body and began his galvanic experiments. On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion. Mr Pass, the beadle of the Surgeons’ Company, who was officially present during this experiment, was so alarmed that he died of fright soon after his return home.”

"[The galvanic] stimulus produced the most horrible contortions and grimaces by the motions of the muscles of the head and face; and an hour and a quarter after death, the arm of one of the bodies was elevated eight inches from the table on which it was supported, and this even when a considerable weight was placed in the hand."

There is much speculation that Aldini’s experiments were the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Honoré Fragonard’s Flayed Figures

Two hundred years before Gunther von Hagens, there was Honoré Fragonard:

The Musée Fragonard d’Alfort is a museum of anatomical oddities located within the École Nationale Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort in Paris. In addition to animal skeletons, dissections and a substantial collection of monstrosities, perhaps the museum’s most astonishing items are the famous “écorchés” (flayed figures) prepared by Honoré Fragonard, the school’s first professor of anatomy, appointed in 1766 and in 1771 dismissed from the school as a madman. His speciality was the preparation and preservation of skinned cadavers, 21 of which remain.

Fragonard’s preservation technique is described by curator Christophe Degueurce thus:

a body, chosen for its leanness, had its large superficial veins cut in several places to drain it of blood, and then it was washed and placed in a heated water bath to warm it in preparation for the injections into the heart and vessels. The substance injected was a mixture of resin, tallow, oil, and beeswax and was stained red for the arteries, blue for the veins… . Once the body had been injected, it was then dissected as rapidly as possible before decomposition set in. [Source]

[Image Sources: 1 : 2 : 3 : 4]

[Thanks to flyawayoverthemoon]

[Fragonard’s cousin, the Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, also features in the Emporium]
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