Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Brookes Lecturer publishes latest book

Thursday, 07 April 2011

Dr Anna Maerker's new book is now available: The museum 'La Specola' in Florence hosts a celebrated collection of eighteenth-century anatomical models in wax - lifelike body parts and bodies in vivid poses, reminiscent of famous works of art and anatomical illustration. Based on a detailed study of rich archival sources, Model Experts explores practices of model production and display, and reveals the often invisible labours of the co-operating artisans, anatomists, and administrators. The book shows that the models were central to a remarkable political experiment: 'La Specola' opened in 1775 as the Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History, one of the first public science museums in Europe. As a venue for public enlightenment, the museum displayed model anatomies to create the model citizen. The study also moves beyond the borders of Tuscany, following a set of Florentine waxes to Vienna to explore the diverse reactions of medical professionals and general audiences as the models travelled in enlightened Europe. Focusing on the models' role for articulations of expertise in state service, the study uncovers the tensions and controversies behind the artificial anatomies' serene surfaces to highlight the fragility of expert authority, and the mutual constitution of notions of expertise, the public, and the state around 1800. The book will be of interest to historians of medicine, science, art, and enlightenment, to scholars in museum studies and in science & technology studies interested in the historical emergence of expertise, public engagement with science, and the relationship between science and the state.