Chapter

A Skeleton in the Closet and Fetuses in the Basement

Lynn M. Morgan

in Icons of Life

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520260436
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944725 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520260436.003.0001
A Skeleton in the Closet and Fetuses in the Basement

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This chapter begins with the author's reactions to seeing the jars of embryos and fetuses stored at a science department storeroom at Mount Holyoke College. She eventually learned that the collection was a small outpost of a large-scale embryo collecting project based at Johns Hopkins during the first half of the twentieth century. During this time, anatomists interested in human embryology collected thousands of human embryos and fetuses as evidence for their scientific study of human origins and development. Results of that research formed the basis for much of what was known about human embryology in the late twentieth century. The discussion then turns to the late nineteenth century, when the idea of embryological development began gaining ground, along with the Progressive Era social and scientific assumption that human culture is epistemologically rooted in nature. This is followed by discussions of the embryological view of development, embryo genesis, an anthropologist's approach to embryo collecting, recognition of fetal death, and the silencing of fetal death. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: embryos; embryology; embryological development; fetal death

Chapter.  15788 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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