The “Ice Age” of Anatomy and Obstetrics: Hand and Eye in the Promotion of Frozen Sections around 1900

Published version
Repository DOI

Change log
Al-Gailani, S 

In the late nineteenth century anatomists claimed a new technique—slicing frozen corpses into sections—translated the three-dimensional complexity of the human body into flat, visually striking, and unprecedentedly accurate images. Traditionally hostile to visual aids, elite anatomists controversially claimed frozen sections had replaced dissection as the “true anatomy.” Some obstetricians adopted frozen sectioning to challenge anatomists’ authority and reform how clinicians made and used pictures. To explain the successes and failures of the technique, this article reconstructs the debates through which practitioners learned to make and interpret, to promote or denigrate frozen sections in teaching and research. Focusing on Britain, the author shows that attempts to introduce frozen sectioning into anatomy and obstetrics shaped and were shaped by negotiations over the epistemological standing of hand and eye in medicine

frozen sections, anatomy, obstetrics, visual aids, representation
Journal Title
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Johns Hopkins University Press
Wellcome Trust (088708/Z/09/Z)
Wellcome Trust (074298/Z/04/Z)
This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust through enhancement and strategic awards in the history of medicine on the theme “Generation to Reproduction” (074298, 088708).