Using artifacts from The Historical Medical Library and Mütter Museum collections, this new exhibition examines the shifting perceptions about abnormal human development, from fear and wonder to curiosity and clinical science.
Imperfecta introduces the subject of teratology with a look at prodigy books. The early modern concept of monster is explored through these contemporary texts, which illustrate the beliefs behind perceived supernatural and natural causes of physical anomalies.
Over time, curiosity about imperfect bodies led to the science of embryology. Modern medicine has proven that genetic mutations and exposure to toxins are to blame for abnormal births, not divine influence. However, simply because a condition such as abnormal human development has been studied and classified by medical science, that does not mean that it cannot touch the deepest part of our psyche, making us question what it means to be imperfect.
Mutter Museum Store
Stepping effortlessly from myth to cutting-edge science, Mutants gives a brilliant narrative account of our genetic code and the captivating people whose bodies have revealed it—a French convent girl who found herself changing sex at puberty; children who, echoing Homer’s Cyclops, are born with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads; a village of long-lived Croatian dwarves; one family, whose bodies were entirely covered with hair, was kept at the Burmese royal court for four generations and gave Darwin one of his keenest insights into heredity. This elegant, humane, and engaging book “captures what we know of the development of what makes us human”