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Images of the human being in the modern sciences

How does the probing eye of science shape the images we have of the human being? Can modern imaging processes such as magnetic resonance tomography and computer animation broaden our notions of the body? How are the medical community’s images of the body reflected in the history of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum?

 

Since its creation in 1911, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum has striven to prevent disease by enlightening the public. The more the human body has yielded its secrets to science, the more vulnerable it has appeared to be. Yet medical progress has also fostered optimism that disease can be vanquished – if people contribute by taking responsibility and by acquiring knowledge about their own bodies. The museum has always portrayed the body in a gamut of contexts, ranging from the individual threatened by illnesses to a frequently idealized, if not prescribed, notion of health. Since 1930, the “Transparent Man” has served as the symbol of this museum. This figure depicts the internal workings of the human body as a machine: understandable, immaculate, and, if well cared for, durable. The meaning of terms such as disease and health is in constant flux, however, and the museum will continue the effort to help define them.