In Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s article, The Image of Objectivity, it was presented that there was a reliance on scientific atlas’ in the time where there was an absence of cadavers. Furthermore, it was worth noting the importance of the images chosen to be in these atlas’ and the debates that were involved in this. Among these debates, there was one regarding ideal versus characteristic images. The ideal image seems to be of one that is cleaned up and easy to comprehend. The characteristic image would be one that is everyday and appears frequently in reality.
This article presents the work of Bernhard Albinus, in relation to the ideal image. It depicted how “he is at once committed to the most exacting standards of visual accuracy in depicting his specimens, and to creating images of ‘the best pattern of nature'” (Daston and Galison, 89). He would find the most normative skeleton he could find, improve this skeleton, and did further comparative analysis to make sure it was a supernormal skeleton. It is interesting the way in which he chose a skeleton of the male sex to represent what he believes to be the most normative skeleton. There seemed to be some gender bias going on with this. In addition, he worked hard “to meticulously clean, reassemble, and prop up the skeleton, checking the exact positions of the hip bones, thorax, clavicles, and so on, by comparison with a very skinny man made to stand naked alongside the prepared skeleton (Daston and Galison, 89). Albinus went to great lengths to create his ideal skeleton.
It is interesting in the way this debate translates into the present-day. I am an undergraduate teaching assistant for Anatomy & Physiology, and I primarily work in the laboratory with undergraduate students and graduate students. Within the lab, we work with “ideal” models that depict every part of the human body. Also within the book, there are images that parallel these models for further study. For example, we are working on the digestive system, and there are models of what the ideal gastrointestinal tract would look like. A model of the inside of the stomach shows clear and picture-perfect rugae. However, not only do we require these potential future physicians and nurses to learn the picture-perfect models, we also require them to learn every body part on our cadavers. These bodies have been donated so students can learn on real human bodies. The cadavers and pictures of the cadavers in the Anatomy & Physiology book seem to be representing the “characteristic” images, being that they represent what the body could look like in reality. It is interesting the way in which this debate of ideal versus characteristic images still exists today.