Neurosciences, photography and cinematography in the 19th century

Geneviève Aubert and Christian Laterre
Department of Neurology, Université Catholique de Louvain, Bruxelles, Belgium

This paper will analyse the remarkable relationship between neurosciences and nascent photography and cinematography. This reflection was spurred by our work on Arthur Van Gehuchten (1861-1914), Belgian neuroanatomist and neurologist who was one of the pioneers of medical cinematography. He used cinematography and photography widely in order to illustrate his lectures, papers and his textbook of neurology. His nitrate films and photographic plates are at the present time being restored, catalogued and studied. In order to place his contribution in a broader scope, we have looked at what had been done before him. Neuroscientists have played a major role in the development of medical photography and cinematography and in the use of these techniques for clinical, research or didactic purposes. In 1862 Duchenne published Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, the first book with physiological experiments illustrated by photographs. This work had a considerable impact on neurology, psychology and the study of fine arts. Charcot and his co-workers attached great importance to photography in their daily practice. In 1870 Bourneville co-edited the Revue photographique des hôpitaux de Paris, the first medical journal with photographs, followed by the Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière. La Salpêtrière was equipped with a clinical photographic laboratory and Albert Londe, a photographer, was attached to the neurological department. In 1893 he published the first book on medical photography. The study of animal and human movement by Muybridge and Marey in the eighties led to chronophotography and later cinematography. Clinicians like Dercum, Richer, Marinesco and Jendrassik took advantage of these new techniques to study pathological movement and gait in neurological diseases.


Poster Session II
Friday, 20 June 1997, 16.10 - 16.40

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands