History of Art


Nick Hopwood

Preserved Embryos

Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, 9 June 2011, 6.30pm

Keynote lecture - free and open to all but please phone the Hunterian museum
to book a ticket 020 7869 6560

Nick Hopwood embryo image

(Glass photograph by Th. Honikel of a human embryo sectioned by the anatomist Wilhelm His in 1879. Anatomisches Museum Basel.)

Our understanding of pregnancy as a series of developmental stages rests on collections of human embryos, in preservative fluid and as sections on microscope slides. The lecture will explore how the collections were assembled in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and interpreted using drawings, models and photographs. It will also reflect on the status of preserved embryos today. Though initially marginalized by an experimental biology focused on living organisms, the preparations and slides are playing new roles and have been joined by frozen embryos produced by in vitro fertilization.