The archival record is mostly silent on the origins of this short film produced and narrated by Frank Armitage, a medical illustrator who also worked as a Disney animator and mural artist, and whose work demonstrates the rare beauty of medical art. By tracing Armitage’s career, we can contextualize and elucidate Anatomical Animation.
“Fall, 1972. Scenes Include Last Survivors.” This is the text on the opening slate. What have we missed? For now, it’s enough to know we’ve arrived late in the game. This is not the event, but its aftermath. This is post-apocalypse.
From the late 1930s through the early 1940s, low-budget filmmaker and perennial Hollywood underdog Edgar G. Ulmer (1904-1972) directed what appear to be eight educational health shorts for the National Tuberculosis Association (NTA).
It’s 1926. The camera is shaky and the images blurry, but we can see a forested hillside and a crop of buildings. Then more acreage, more structures. Eventually, row upon row of people sunbathing; nurses in white uniforms; fresh milk poured into tin cups; children playing and yes, even boxing.
Leprosy in India [Lepra in India in the original German] is a hard film to watch. In the course of its 12 minutes, it puts before the camera patients who suffer from a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild discoloration of the skin to terrible facial and bodily disfigurement, and loss of fingers and toes.
By Tatjana Buklijas, Birgit Nemec, and Katrin Pilz
Sometime in the last century a fragment of silent film landed at the National Library of Medicine. Like many of the older films in the collection, how it got there is a mystery: no paperwork survives to tell the tale; no other prints of the film appear to have survived; no other sources on its making or showing have turned up.
Among the many old motion pictures shelved in the collection of the National Library of Medicine is a uniquely strange two-reel 16 millimeter film, with an ungainly title: Neural and Humoral Factors in the Regulation of Bodily Functions (Research on Conjoined Twins).
A dentist invites a young boy: “Come with me, into the visual instruction room.” And with this, Ask Your Dentist, a silent dental film from around 1930, stages a cinematic revue of instructional techniques and tactics.
Schizophrenia was a new diagnosis in interwar American medicine. Invented in 1911 by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939), the term gradually supplanted “dementia praecox,” which after World War I was associated too closely with German psychiatry.
The release of Man Alive! in 1952 signaled a change in American anti-cancer campaigns. Since their emergence in the early twentieth century, such campaigns had focused most attention on recruiting women into programs of early detection and treatment.
When one thinks of audio-visual recordings of psychiatric patients in the United States in the 1960s, the distressing images of Frederick Wiseman’s observational documentary Titicut Follies (1967) may come to mind. The Depressive Neurosis series from 1969 bears no resemblance to these films. Instead, the series offers a rare glimpse into the day-to-day world of late 1960s psychiatric practice, in which people with addiction, mental illness, or mental disabilities seek help and are received with an open mind and treated with dignity by the doctors they speak to and the camera crew that films them.
Public health and war have long been close companions. In the first terrible round of “modern wars”—the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War and World War I—military officials and civilian leaders called on health professionals and volunteers to help mobilize and protect military forces and civilian populations. Health experts in turn viewed these conflicts as a sort of laboratory to test and implement their theories, and an opportunity to use fresh knowledge and nascent technologies. They boarded the bandwagon to advance their professional, scientific, political, and ideological goals—and film was a medium with which to do so.
The National Library of Medicine is home to 83 films created by virologist Telford H. Work documenting his life’s work and travels. The films supplement Work’s manuscript collection, which covers his education, career, hobbies, and achievements. Captured between 1942 and 1988, the films were primarily shot on 16mm film, with video copies made later.
By David Cantor, PhD Instituto de Desarrollo Económico y Social (IDES), Buenos Aires
In 1949 the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare (DNHW) commissioned a cancer educational film, eventually called Challenge: Science Against Cancer. It was to be one of the first of a new form of film. The urgent task was to induce young scientists to think of cancer research and biomedicine as careers, and Challenge was to be a key part of the response.
By Benjamín Schultz-Figueroa, PhD, Assistant Professor in Film Studies, Seattle University
The history of animal testing and the history of the life sciences go hand in hand. Donna Haraway describes the emotional and ethical complexities with this work as the “shared suffering” of the lab. This argument is premised on the recognition of animal agency in the lab, a space where animals, apparatuses, and scientists are all responding and responsible to each other, though in very different ways.
Dr. Mary Catterall (1922-2015), doctor and sculptor, script and medical adviser to the film, It Takes Your Breath Away, became concerned with lung health when she was appointed Senior Registrar in Respiratory Medicine at Leeds General Infirmary, England in 1960. The film won a Silver Medal at the British Medical Association annual film competition in 1964.
The 1960s represent a turning point in popular awareness about environmental problems. The modern environmental movement that emerged in the mid-1960s and early ‘70s focused on a new set of concerns such as air pollution, water pollution, and pesticides. More federal environmental bills were signed in the 1960s and early 1970s than at any other period in U.S. history.
In the early twentieth century, American nursing leaders came to see the motion picture as a quintessentially modern instrument of education, training, and recruitment. In their view, movies were a powerful tool to transform public opinion, to instruct new recruits in the mysteries of nursing practice, and to keep the qualified nurse abreast of new developments in the field.
The United States Public Health Service (PHS) released several education films in the 1930s and 1940s as part of a broader campaign against venereal-disease (VD). The agency had been operating a VD program since World War I, when concern over the number of Army recruits infected led Congress to enact a law that created a Venereal Disease Division in the PHS.