Interdisciplinary Anatomy Course

Students in library
Students visit the rare books collection at Penn State to see Renaissance anatomy texts.

For the past year, I’ve been teaching a new course at the Pennsylvania State University called The Visual Body. The course is co-taught by Dr. Nicole Squyres, and takes a holistic approach to exploring the field of scientific illustration. Students look at anatomical illustrations from the twin perspectives of art and medicine, using the field as a lens to study the histories of science, technology, and publishing. Alongside the history of the field, the course includes lab exercises with cadavers and design workshops that span traditional media to digital platforms. In an effort to put these skills to use, and step into the role of artists and authors themselves, students spend the final weeks of the course making zines and alternative publications about human anatomy.

The course is open to students from a variety of disciplines, and has proven to a be a novel mix of technical knowledge and freewheeling discussion. As in some of my own projects, I get to work in creative and analytical modes, and help students discover the possibilities of stepping outside traditional academic boundaries.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the vaults of anatomical illustration:

Charlies Estienne, 16th cen, Italian
Charlies Estienne, 16th cen, Italian
Guido-da-Vigevano
Guido da Vigevano, 14th cen, Italian
John-Arderne
John Arderne, 1430, British
Frederick Ruysch, 17th cen, Dutch
Frederick Ruysch, 17th cen, Dutch