Posted in The Surgeons...

Cold like the dead

In 1672, a young anatomy student named Alexander Flint began doodling in his notebook (above) as his lecturer, James Pillans, droned on about the anatomical structures of the human body. In a small picture to the left of Flint’s notes appears the skeletal remains of some unfortunate soul—perhaps an executed criminal—who has in death become the object of this anatomist’s weekly lesson.

But the most interesting sketch looms above Flint’s notes, at the top of the page. It is the skeleton—not as a medical subject but as Death—with the words ‘fugit hora’ (literally, ‘the hours flee’). The skeleton may be anatomically incorrect—but these flaws are forgivable in a student who has only just begun his surgical career. In fact, it is likely because of Flint’s inexperience with the dead that we see these ‘memento mori’ (‘reminders of death’) plastered all over his early notes. He is not yet emotionally immune to the sight of dead bodies in the dissection theatre. [1]

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Cold like the Dead: Learning Dispassion through Dissection

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