History of Medicine
Dreaming the Industrial Body
Fritz Kahn's Modernist Physiology
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.
X rays and the cultural imagination
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.