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RPS International Images for Science Older Models
22 November 2017

Older Models

They might not be the first thing you imagine when you hear the word ‘model’, but these plaster people are anatomical models designed to teach medical students about the inner workings of the human body. Since the 17th century, anatomists have relied on models made from materials as diverse as wax, silk, ivory, papier-maché and wood, as well as plaster. This set was created more than a century ago by the German sculptor Franz Josef Steger, working in collaboration with the Swiss embryologist Professor Wilhelm His. Together, they developed a new method for making their models by freezing body parts before dissecting and casting them, which created more realistic and ‘natural’ arrangements of organs and muscles. Their models were mass-produced from the 1880s until the 1930s and became popular as an alternative to real human corpses, which were (unsurprisingly) hard to come by and fuelled a grim trade in grave-robbing.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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