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Medical detectives of the National Gallery

Clare S Ryan14 September 2011

For Professor Michael Baum (UCL Research Department of General Surgery), the National Gallery is not just an extraordinary art museum, it’s a medical school. In his lecture at the British Science Festival, he treated the audience to a virtual version of the “ward rounds” of the National Gallery that he takes his medical students on to teach them the art of diagnosis.

A Satyr Mourning over a Nymph

Piero di Cosimo, A Satyr mourning over a Nymph, about 1495 (©) The National Gallery, London

Professor Baum believes that classical paintings can reveal a great deal about anatomy, the history of medicine, pathology and even uncover murders.

With a bit of artistic and medical sleuthing, Professor Baum and his students have published many papers describing medical diagnoses, ranging from syphilis to Paget’s disease, which give new perspectives on paintings that have been around for hundreds of years. (more…)