Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NMHM's embryology collection in Bull. of History of Medicine

Ex Utero: Live Human Fetal Research and the Films of Davenport Hooker

From: Bulletin of the History of Medicine 
Volume 88, Number 1, Spring 2014 
pp. 132-160 | 10.1353/bhm.2014.0002



Between 1932 and 1963 University of Pittsburgh anatomist Davenport Hooker, Ph.D., performed and filmed noninvasive studies of reflexive movement on more than 150 surgically aborted human fetuses. The resulting imagery and information would contribute substantially to new visual and biomedical conceptions of fetuses as baby-like, autonomous human entities that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Hooker's methods, though broadly conforming to contemporary research practices and views of fetuses, would not have been feasible later. But while Hooker and the 1930s medical and general public viewed live fetuses as acceptable materials for nontherapeutic research, they also shared a regard for fetuses as developing humans with some degree of social value. Hooker's research and the various reactions to his work demonstrate the varied and changing perspectives on fetuses and fetal experimentation, and the influence those views can have on biomedical research.

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