Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Hearty Valentine's Greeting

This year's Valentine's message features a papier-mâché heart in Special Collections at the Health Sciences Library, which was purchased through the Dr. Benson Reid Wilcox Rare Book Endowment. Designed by Dr. Louis Thomas Jérôme Auzoux (1797-1880) and fabricated circa 1870, this and similar anatomical models were an important tool in the teaching of human anatomy in the nineteenth century. As cultural, legal, and environmental concerns limited the efficacy of using cadavers for instruction, Auzoux pioneered the development of papier-mâché anatomical models, which were employed to represent the structures of humans, as well as animals and plants. For those interested in learning more, the Smithsonian Institution's online exhibition, Artificial Anatomy: Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models, is highly recommended.

Other online resources on the anatomy and function of the heart are the Latin and English versions of William Harvey's Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus [On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals], in which he famously observed in 1628:

" . . . it is absolutely necessary to conclude that the blood in the animal body is impelled in a circle, and is in a state of ceaseless motion; that this is the act or function which the heart performs by means of its pulse; and that it is the sole and only end of the motion and contraction of the heart." -- Chapter 14, "Conclusion of the Demonstration of Circulation" (translated by Robert Willis).

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