Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World - Medicine


By studying  living bodies and examining cadavers, scientists over time made new discoveries about circulation, skeletal and muscular structure, and much more. In Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World, the medicine collection illustrates the wildly different and sometimes extreme ways the body has been represented, as well as the development of new abilities to help treat a wide range of physical conditions.


epitome grays-anatomy


Epitome: De humani corporis fabrica (Epitome. On the fabric of the human body, 1543), by Andreas Vesalius.

The major anatomical treatise, De humani corporis fabrica, broke new ground in its detailed and accurate illustrations of the human body, based on Vesalius’ own dissections. In the same year it was published, he also produced the Epitome. Intended for students, the illustrated summary of the treatise included layered flaps depicting the body's structure.


Anatomy, descriptive and surgical, 1858, Henry Gray

Gray’s comprehensive, portable medical guidebook was used as a reference during the Civil War and is still considered the most authoritative text on anatomy – an example of a work that retained its value by evolving to reflect advances in knowledge.



xray beautiful-science-pasteur


Transparency of an early diagnostic x-ray, 1896, Michael Pupin

A year after X-rays were first discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen, Pupin created a way to expose an X-ray image directly onto photographic paper. A surgeon used this image as a guide to remove dozens of buckshot lodged in a hand.


Manuscript on rabies, diary, and photograph 1860, Louis Pasteur

One of the most versatile and influential scientists of the 19th century, Pasteur made his greatest mark on the world through  remarkable breakthroughs in understanding the causes and prevention of disease. The manuscript concerns his ultimately successful work on a rabies vaccine.






Follow along on the journey of discovery!

Medicine Interactive Timeline »




Myologie Complete,1746

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Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Corporis Humani, 1749

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"Some people would see order as beautiful, some people would see diversity as beautiful."

Historian Jan Golinski, University of New Hampshire

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"I think science can be intimidating."

Cancer researcher Amy Ross, California Institute of Technology

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