Thursday, March 7, 2013

Images of Research

Every year one of my campuses holds an Images of Research competition among its graduate students. The first year they announced this, I couldn't help but observe to them that they were privileging the sciences over the humanities, as biologists and physicists create images all the time in their research, whereas literary scholars and historians tend to work with texts. Although I frequently use images in my own work, these were overwhelming made by someone else, either a historical subject or an archivist (and therefore not eligible for the competition). Nevertheless, while in Germany in 2011, I decided to create an image to submit. It didn't win or even place, but I came across it today while looking for something else. Here it is, for your amusement and edification.

As an MD/PhD Candidate in History, I spend a lot of time translating: from basic science into clinical practice, from scholarly work into lessons for undergraduate students, from German into English. I snapped this image while researching my dissertation on theories about nutrition and bodies in the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden, Germany. It shows pages on the physiology of vision from the fifth and final volume of German-American physician-author Fritz Kahn’s illustrated encyclopedia, Das Leben des Menschen (The Life of Man: A Popular Anatomy, Biology, Physiology and Developmental History of Humans, 1922-1931). The first feature-length 3D film, The Power of Love, had come out in 1922, and the first 3D film in color was an untitled movie shot at the 1936 National Garden Show in Dresden. 3D technology is also about translating, in this case, off-set two-dimensional images into vivid three-dimensional ones. As an added bonus, the film inserts in the cardboard 3D “glasses” are blue and orange, the colors of my home campus. 


(The caption under the dromedaries reads "Das plastische Sehen": "’Three-dimensional Vision’ in the anaglyph technique of Ducos du Hauron [explanation on facing page, p. 113]. Original photograph by Councilor Hermann L├╝scher.” The adjective plastisch has additional meanings of “vivid” and “malleable.”)

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