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Icons of Life
Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos | Lynn Morgan
6 posts | 1 reading | 3 to read
Icons of Life tells the engrossing and provocative story of an early twentieth-century undertaking, the Carnegie Institution of Washington's project to collect thousands of embryos for scientific study. Lynn M. Morgan blends social analysis, sleuthing, and humor to trace the history of specimen collecting. In the process, she illuminates how a hundred-year-old scientific endeavor continues to be felt in today's fraught arena of maternal and fetal politics. Until the embryo collecting project-which she follows from the Johns Hopkins anatomy department, through Baltimore foundling homes, and all the way to China-most people had no idea what human embryos looked like. But by the 1950s, modern citizens saw in embryos an image of "ourselves unborn," and embryology had developed a biologically based story about how we came to be. Morgan explains how dead specimens paradoxically became icons of life, how embryos were generated as social artifacts separate from pregnant women, and how a fetus thwarted Gertrude Stein's medical career. By resurrecting a nearly forgotten scientific project, Morgan sheds light on the roots of a modern origin story and raises the still controversial issue of how we decide what embryos mean.
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kgriffith
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Some things haven‘t changed much...

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kgriffith
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Just accidentally discovered that my book stand works upside down so if you need me I‘ll be hanging off the end of the ottoman and getting a good back and shoulder stretch in while I learn more about procuring cadavers and fetuses in Baltimore during the early days of embryology.

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kgriffith
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😂

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kgriffith
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Nothing in particular to quote here, just taking a pause to think about my professor, this book, her classroom teaching, and our engagement —hers and mine— last semester. Several profs here have had what I know will be a lasting impact on me, and I hope to maintain many of those relationships after I graduate. This one though, there‘s something special here. She‘s so quietly brilliant, so almost-imperceptibly adept at what she does. It‘s powerful.

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kgriffith
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I can absolutely hear Lynn saying this in class 😂

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kgriffith
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If the book you want to teach doesn‘t exist, I guess you write it. Excited for my second class with Lynn Morgan.

julesG Interesting! I'll stack this. 1mo
30 likes3 stack adds1 comment