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Skeleton of a boy sitting on the 'D' of 'Dream', from Francesco Bertinatti, Elementi di anatomia fisiologica applicata alle belle arti figurative (Turin, 1837-39).  Artist: Mecco Leone. Lithograph
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Dreaming the Industrial Body

Fritz Kahn's Modernist Physiology

A human head in profile. A cut-out of the front top of the cranium is divided into two offices, each staffed by a little man. Cropped, from Fritz Kahn, Das Leben des Menschen; eine volkstümliche Anatomie, Biologie, Physiologie und Entwick-lungs-geschichte des Menschen. Vol. 2 (Stuttgart, 1926). Relief halftone.
A young beautiful naked woman, with hands on her forehead, absorbs the rays of the sun (indicated by dotted lines).  Cropped, from Fritz Kahn, Der Mensch: Gesund und Krank, Vol. 2 (Zürich-Leipzig, 1939). Relief halftone.
A human head in profile divided into offices, staffed by little men, and areas of industrial production. Cropped, from Fritz Kahn, Das Leben des Menschen; eine volkstümliche Anatomie, Biologie, Physiologie und Entwick-lungs-geschichte des Menschen (Stuttgart, 1926). Chromolithograph.

In the early 20th century, Fritz Kahn produced a succession of books on the inner workings of the human body, using visual metaphors drawn from industrial society—assembly lines, internal combustion engines, refineries, dynamos, telephones, etc. The body, in Kahn’s work, was "modern" and productive, a theme visually emphasized through modernist artwork. Though his books sold well, his Jewishness, and public advocacy of progressive reform, made him a target for Nazi attacks. Rescued by American agent Varian Fry, along with other prominent Jewish scientists and intellectuals, he was brought to America in 1940.

A light shines from a prism through an eyeball (shown from behind as a cut-out of a man’s head) onto a picture of Nefertiti. Cropped, from Fritz Kahn, Das Leben des Menschen; eine volkstümliche Anatomie, Biologie, Physiologie und Entwick-lungs-geschichte des Menschen. Vol. 5 (Stuttgart, 1931). Relief halftone.
A scene that appears to be a strange landscape, with the sun shining, a mountain and a volcano. Cropped, from Fritz Kahn, Das Leben des Menschen; eine volkstümliche Anatomie, Biologie, Physiologie und Entwick-lungs-geschichte des Menschen. Vol. 5 (Stuttgart, 1931). Relief halftone.
Two silhouetted men, each with an image of flame burning on his chest, harvest wheat, a third man sleeps next to them. Cropped, from Fritz Kahn, Man: His Structure and Function (New York, 1942). Relief halftone.



Dissection Scenes and Fancies
Dreaming Art Anatomy
The People's Anatomy
Dreaming the Industrial Body
Visible Human

Next Section: Reuniting the Divided Self

X rays and the cultural imagination

A blurry x-ray of four fingers, one of them with a large ring. Cropped, from The hand of Mrs. Wilhelm Roentgen: the first X-ray image, 1895. In Otto Glasser, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the early history of the Roentgen rays (London, 1933).
An x-ray of a baby’s skull. Cropped, from U.S. Department of Labor, Children’s Bureau. Infant Growth and Development (Washington, DC, ca. 1943). Photo offset.

Wilhelm Roentgen’s 1895 discovery of the X ray was greeted with rapturous enthusiasm, as one of the technological wonders of the age. The ability to see through the skin, into the interior of the living body, saved lives and profoundly stirred the cultural imagination. Roentgen won the first Nobel Prize in physics and the X ray quickly became an important tool for medical researchers and clinicians. It also became a favorite subject for cartoonists and artists—and quickly found applications in shoe stores and other unlikely places.

Two men wearing goggles look at a fluoroscope of a patient. Cropped, from, John Sloan (artist), X-Rays (N.p., 1926). Etching.