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14 Big Facts About Dallas

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When Dallas debuted in 1978, the world wasn’t quite ready for the nighttime soap opera. The first season consisted of a five-hour mini-series, and the second season expanded into 24 episodes; both seasons had low ratings. But during the final episode of season three, in March of 1980, something miraculous occurred: J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) got shot, and turned Dallas into a worldwide phenomenon.

From then on the ratings soared, with more than 100 million people around the globe tuning in to see what sort of antics the oil-rich Ewing family would get themselves into (or out of) next. When the show moved to Friday nights, Hagman saw it as a boon. “You’ve got to realize that there was kind of a recession going on during that period of time and people couldn’t afford to go out,” he told Larry King in 2000. “They couldn’t go out to movies and get a babysitter and stuff like that. They had to stay in and watch something. So we were on.”

Dallas was a precursor to other popular 1980s night soaps, such as Knots Landing (a Dallas spinoff, also created by David Jacobs), Dynasty, and Falcon Crest, all of which went off air by the early 1990s. After 357 episodes and 14 seasons, Dallas signed off on May 3, 1991, but lived on in three TV movies. Then, in 2012, TNT rebooted Dallas for three seasons, with Hagman, Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), and Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) reprising their roles. In honor of the series finale's 25th anniversary, here are 14 big-in-Texas facts about J.R. and his conflicted family members.

1. CREATOR DAVID JACOBS DIDN’T KNOW THE SHOW WOULD BE SET IN DALLAS.

How Dallas came to be set in the city was by chance: Creator David Jacobs had a development deal with Lorimar Television and wrote a story about Ewing Oil in 1977. Lorimar executive Michael Filerman read the story and said, “‘Yeah, it was fine. But I changed the name,’” Jacobs told the Texas Observer. “And I said, ‘Well, what did you call it?’ He said, ‘Dallas! It sounded better than Houston.’” At the time, Dallas was known more for its bankers; Houston was known for oil.

2. DALLAS WAS THE LESS CLASSY VERSION OF DYNASTY.

Dallas was fairly modestly mounted: Southfork was big but no mansion, and now and then the characters wore jeans to breakfast,” Jacobs wrote in The New York Times. “Dynasty was perhaps the most extravagantly produced series in the history of episodic television: the sets were more opulent, the wardrobe more expensive, the lifestyles more ostentatious—the characters dressed for breakfast and wore jewelry with lingerie. During almost any other period, Dynasty would have been regarded as more vulgar than Dallas. In the mid-80s, however, Dynasty was widely viewed as the classier of the two shows. As it happened, both Dallas and Dynasty faded as the Reagan Presidency faded. Indeed, Dynasty could not survive the changing of the guard. It was gone by the end of George Bush's first hundred days.” Now let’s imagine Joan Collins in a ten-gallon hat.

3. LARRY HAGMAN AND PATRICK DUFFY DRANK A LOT ON SET.

In 1995, Larry Hagman—who died of cancer in 2012—had a liver transplant due to alcoholism. Patrick Duffy, who played J.R.’s younger brother Bobby, reminisced to Ultimate Dallas about their drinking days. “I would have a glass [of champagne] with him, but then he would continue for the rest of the day with many more bottles,” Duffy said. “At lunch, we would go off and find a restaurant, have a couple of drinks with our meal. Late afternoon before we wrapped, it was time for a little toddy. Then, after we wrapped, we would sit in the dressing room and have another little drink before we went home to have drinks before dinner and a bottle of wine with dinner and a little after-dinner drink before going to bed.” Duffy said it was fun “but I couldn’t keep up. I never thought, ‘Whoops! I'm developing a drinking problem.’ I just took my foot off the accelerator.”

“I was drinking five bottles of champagne a day [during the filming of the original series], but I was never drunk,” Hagman once said. “I just took little slugs throughout the day. Nine o'clock in the morning to nine o'clock at night is 12 long hours. You can ingest a lot of alcohol in that time, but it was never too much.”

4. SUE ELLEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED AS A MINOR ROLE.

In the pilot, Linda Gray—who played J.R.’s wife Sue Ellen for several seasons—isn’t even given a name in her limited screen time. Casting wanted Newhart actress Mary Frann for the role, but Gray impressed the network enough to change her character into a main cast member.

“I remember in the first episode sitting on the couch and the camera went around and shot close-ups of everybody just to get reaction shots, but I was the only one without any dialogue,” Gray told Ultimate Dallas. “Larry was talking all the time, and Patrick was saying a few things, Jock was talking, Miss Ellie, and Pamela—everybody had something to say but me. As J.R. was going on and on, I stared at him and all this stuff started going on behind my eyes. It was like, ‘Who are you and why are you carrying on like this? You are the most idiotic pain in the ass kind of man on the planet. Why would I be married to you?’ So when it came to my close-up, I just projected that. Then CBS saw the chemistry between Larry and I and said, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here? Let’s investigate.’”

The writers turned Sue Ellen into an alcoholic, which Gray eventually grew tired of; she left the show in 1989. “In the end it was, you know, come on. This woman has been drunk for eight years! It was enough,” she told The Telegraph. “I didn't storm off in my high heels or anything, but it was enough.”

5. NEITHER HAGMAN NOR JACOBS VIEWED J.R. AS A “BAD” GUY.

Yes, J.R. was always scheming and making enemies—he did get shot twice—but Hagman told Ultimate Dallas that he felt the character was misunderstood. “J.R wasn’t that bad. He was a businessman, which is bad enough right away. But I don’t know. He took care of his family. I wouldn't call him bad; he was just an oil man.”

“Dramatically he was neither hero nor villain but a combination, the villain-as-protagonist,” David Jacobs wrote in The New York Times about J.R. “He wasn’t created that way. In the first draft of the pilot script, J.R. was a more conventional bad guy. It was the hero, Bobby, whom I thought was more freshly conceived: player and playboy, the apple of his father’s eye, likable but immature.” But CBS wanted Bobby to be more “conventionally heroic.”

“I had one thing I always had to be and that was I had to be good,” Duffy told Ultimate Dallas. He also said Pam “was a basic sub-heading of ‘Bobbys good.’”

6. HAGMAN MODELED J.R. AFTER A REAL-LIFE OIL BARON.

Hagman grew up in Texas and said he used to dig ditches and build swimming pools for an oil man with four sons in Weatherford, Texas. He told Ultimate Dallas “it was soul destroying” work and “I figured that life was not for me so I became an actor … I learned not so much about the oil business but about oil families, and when [the oil man] died, there was kind of a war to see who would take over the business and one of the sons won, and I modeled my character after that son.”

7. DALLAS MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE LED TO THE FALL OF COMMUNISM.

With such a huge global audience, the show reached as far east as Russia and Romania, where it was forbidden until Romanian president Nicolae Ceaușescu finally allowed the show to air. Ceaușescu was tricked into believing it was anti-capitalist, therefore safe to show Romanians, but the show didn’t have a peaceful outcome. “I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [Soviet] empire,” Hagman once told the Associated Press. “They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, ‘Hey, we don’t have all this stuff.’ I think it was good old-fashioned greed that got them to question their authority.”

In 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife were assassinated, and Romanians began to experience more freedom without a tyrannical rule. According to The Washington Post, after the dictator’s exit, the show’s previously censored scenes were edited back in and aired.

Hagman had a friendly relationship with communist Bucharest; in exchange for them using his image in ads for Russian oil firm Lukoil, Hagman accepted quite a bit of cash. Hagman didn’t want anybody to know about his compensation until his death, which is when the news finally leaked.

8. THERE WAS A ROMANIAN VERSION OF SOUTHFORK.

Romania loved Dallas so much that a tycoon named Ilie Alexandru built a hotel complex called Parcul Vacante Hermes, or “Southforkscu,” in Slobozia, Romania. The Texas Observer reported that Alexandru wanted to be like J.R. Ewing so he built a hotel and called it “Dallas.” He also erected horse stables, polo fields, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. None of that stuff exists today, and Alexandru went to prison for financial crimes. At least the American Southfork still thrives. Southfork, where the Ewings lived on the show and where the show's exteriors were filmed, is located in Parker, Texas. In 1985 the ranch-mansion finally opened to the public and is now a conference and event center (yes, you can get married at Southfork). You can also take tours of the mansion and grounds, and see the gun that shot J.R.

9. WHETHER OR NOT J.R. LIVED DEPENDED ON HAGMAN'S CONTRACT.

Cliffhangers were becoming a thing on TV, and Dallas wanted to capitalize on that. The miniseries season ended with Sue Ellen getting into a car crash while pregnant, so the producers wanted to continue the tradition with “Who Shot J.R.?” “We just thought that since the show was really starting to climb and doing much better in the ratings we’d give the audience something to think about over the summer, and hopefully they’d be interested enough to really tune in in numbers for the first show next year. That’s what happened,” Dallas producer Leonard Katzman told Texas Monthly.

Whether or not Hagman returned following the shooting, though, had to do with him wanting to be paid more money, which is why he went along with the “Who Shot J.R?” premise. “The shooting of J.R. was a double-edged sword; it gave my producers and the CBS bosses a perfect way to get rid of me in case my demands got out of hand,” Hagman told TV Guide in 1980. “Meantime, the pressures began to build. Certain rumors were allowed to circulate, such as an insidious scheme, worthy of J.R. himself, to have the ambulance burn on the way to the hospital, necessitating plastic surgery on J.R., who would emerge from the operation looking just like another actor.” He had a feeling the producers wouldn’t let J.R. die and that they’d acquiesce to his monetary demands.

J.R. was shot in “A House Divided,” which aired in March of 1980, but fans would have to wait until November to find out who attempted to kill him. Those eight months caused such a frenzy that bookies took bets on who did the deed, and even Queen Elizabeth asked Hagman who shot him. “We were presented to the Queen Mother. And she says, ‘I don't suppose you could tell me who shot J.R?’ I said, ‘No ma'am, not even you.’” The show even filmed a gag reel of the cast and crew taking turns shooting Hagman, as a red herring.

When “Who Done It” aired as the fourth episode of the fourth season, on November 21, 1980, the world finally discovered that it was Sue Ellen’s sister, Kristin (Mary Crosby), who did the deed. Up to that point, Crosby was best known for being Bing Crosby’s daughter, but “Being the one who shot J.R. made me a trivia question, and I’m really big in really small countries,” Crosby told CBS. After all that, Hagman prevailed and got his raise (plus a stake in the series).

10. PATRICK DUFFY REALIZED LEAVING DALLAS WAS A “FIASCO.”

At the end of season eight, in 1985, Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany) tries to run over her half-sister, Pam, but instead hits and kills Bobby Ewing. Duffy’s seven-year contract had expired and he wanted out. “It was obviously an ensemble show and I thought if it was ever a time at the height of the popularity of that show, that I might be able to launch into something that was more of a single, starring venue, that that would be the time to do it,” Duffy told The Huffington Post. “I left the show and that did not happen—typical Patrick Duffy business decision fiasco. I went back on the show because they asked me to and I realized that was the best place to work and I was back with my best friend.” When Duffy appears in Pam’s shower at the end of the ninth season, in 1986, it shocked and alienated viewers, and the entire year became known as “The Dream Season.”

Apparently it was Duffy’s wife who came up with the shower idea. “When I said to her, ‘I think they’re going to ask me to come back on the show,’ her first response was, ‘You can only do that if the whole last season was a dream.’ Then when I talked to Leonard [Katzman, Dallas showrunner], that was indeed what he wanted to do and so we went ahead and did it.”

11. VICTORIA PRINCIPAL REFUSED TO RETURN TO DALLAS, BECAUSE OF SHAKESPEARE.

Victoria Principal played Pamela Ewing, who supposedly died in a car crash in 1987 as a means for the actress to exit the show, but returned the following season after having gone under the knife, and was then played by Margaret Michaels. Unlike her onscreen hubby, Principal declined to ever return to the show.

In talking with Deadline.com, Principal said Bobby and Pam were the “Romeo and Juliet of Dallas,” a tragic love story of Shakespearean proportions, and she had to respect that. “I cannot be held responsible for any choices made by producers, once I left Dallas, but I do take responsibility for my decision, not to risk tarnishing Bobby and Pam’s love story, with a desperate reappearance,” she said. “I made this decision a long time ago with a loving and respectful heart for Dallas, Bobby and Pam, and all faithful fans.”

In order to keep Principal from leaving the show, producers offered a lot of money to stay. “It would have made me the highest paid actress on television had I accepted the offer,” she told Ultimate Dallas. “It was time to go and I found out a lot about myself. I can’t be bought.”

12. HANK WILLIAMS JR. WROTE A SONG ABOUT DALLAS CALLED “THIS AIN’T DALLAS.”

In 1985, Dallas inspired the country singer to write about what a fantasy Dallas was. “This ain’t Dallas and this ain’t Dynasty / This is a real-life two-job working family / And I ain’t J.R., you ain’t Sue Ellen,” go the lyrics. Williams also sings how he doesn’t have a Mercedes and “we’re just man and woman holding this thing together.”

13. A DALLAS VIDEO GAME EXISTS.

In 1984, Datasoft invented a game called The Dallas Quest for the Commodore 64 computer. The premise of the game is that Sue Ellen summons the player to Southfork and tells them she wants them to find a map of an oil field and return it to her. If the player is able to thwart J.R. and return the map, they’ll receive $2 million. The game didn’t have all that much to do with Dallas; you spent most of the game fighting off angry cattle, monkeys, and of course, the Ewings.

14. THE SHOWRUNNER OF THE DALLAS REBOOT DIDN’T WANT IT TO BE CAMPY.

Cynthia Cidre was asked to executive produce the 2012 Dallas reboot and approached it in a way that respected the original material. “This is not Dynasty,” Cidre told Ultimate Dallas. “No slur on Dynasty, but this is not a show where people pull each other’s hair out, falling in fountains. This is a show with real emotion and real passion about the land and about love. I’m just taking it seriously. However, the caveat on that is that this is Dallas and we want to have fun. We want to love to hate the bad guys, have some flair. The situations are slightly pumped up as it’s melodrama and it’s a soap, but we’re grounding it in real human behavior. You’re gonna have fun, double crossing and scheming. We’ll have that, but it’s not in any way camp.”

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15 Things You May Not Know About Close Encounters of the Third Kind
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We are not alone. Here are a few facts about Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO classic, on its 40th anniversary.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY A VERY DIFFERENT FILM.

Spielberg’s initial story outline involved UFOs and shady government dealings following the Watergate scandal, which became a script entitled “Watch the Skies.” The idea involved a police or military officer working on Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s official study into UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s, who would become the whistleblower on the government cover-up of aliens. There were numerous rewrites—Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader even took a crack at it, penning a political UFO thriller titled “Kingdom Come” that Spielberg and the movie studio rejected—before the story we know today emerged.

2. IT’S NAMED AFTER LEGITIMATE UFO RESEARCH.


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Spielberg partly based his idea on the research of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a civilian scientific advisor to Project Blue Book who eventually admitted that 11 percent of the study’s findings about unidentified flying objects could not be explained using science.

The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.

3. THERE’S A CAMEO FROM THE GODFATHER OF UFO RESEARCH.

Hynek, who also served as a technical advisor on the movie, makes an uncredited cameo in the final scene of the movie. You can spot him pretty easily—he’s the goateed man smoking a pipe and wearing a powder blue suit who pushes through the crowd of scientists to get a better look at the aliens.

4. NOBODY WANTED THE STARRING ROLE.

Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Columbia Pictures

The director first offered the part of Roy Neary to actor Steve McQueen, who turned it down because he said he couldn’t cry on cue, something he saw as essential to the character. Spielberg then went to Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and James Caan who all turned him down as well before asking his friend Richard Dreyfuss, who previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws, to take the part.

5. BUT IT WASN'T THE MOST DIFFICULT ROLE TO CAST.

Spielberg approached French actors like Lino Ventura, Yves Montand, and Jean-Louis Trintignant to play Claude Lacombe—who was based on famous UFO researcher Jacques Vallée—before settling on director and sometimes-actor François Truffaut. The initially skeptical Truffaut, who was nervous about appearing in a big budget Hollywood movie, accepted the role because he wanted to compile research for a book about acting (he never did write the book).

6. MERYL STREEP COULD HAVE PLAYED ROY'S WIFE.

Many actresses—including a then-unknown Yale Drama School grad named Meryl Streep—auditioned for the part of Roy’s wife Ronnie, but he ultimately cast actress Teri Garr because he saw her in a coffee commercial and loved the way she was able to convey a wide range of emotions in a 30-second clip.

7. THEY SHOT IN A DISUSED AIR FORCE HANGAR.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg wanted to shoot in real suburban locations rather than studio backlots, but the production had trouble finding locations. The biggest question: Where could Spielberg shoot the climactic canyon sequence with the mothership?

The production looked for huge indoor enclosures that would allow for the massive scale of the scene, though they only found ones with center support dividers that spoiled the openness Spielberg wanted for the UFO runway. The only location producers found without center dividers was a 300 foot by 300 foot disused hangar that had been used for dirigibles during World War II at Brookley Air Force base in Mobile, Alabama.

8. THE TEAM BOUGHT A HOUSE FOR THE PRODUCTION—AND SOLD IT FOR A PROFIT.

The Nearys' house, which is located at 1613 Carlisle Drive East in Mobile, was actually purchased by the production for $35,000 so they could do whatever they wanted with the interiors. It was later sold for $50,000 after production wrapped, netting a $15,000 surplus that went back into the film’s budget.

9. THE MEMORABLE 5-NOTE TONES TOOK A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT

Composer John Williams worked with Spielberg to come up with the movie’s distinct five-note musical method of communication between humans and aliens—which Spielberg partly based on the Solfège system of musical education—a year before shooting began.

Williams initially wanted a seven-note sequence, but it was too long for the simple musical “greeting” Spielberg wanted. The composer enlisted a mathematician to calculate the number of five-note combinations they could potentially make from a 12-note scale. When that number proved to be somewhere upwards of 134,000 combinations, Williams created 100 distinct versions, and they simply whittled the combinations down one by one until they had a winner.

10. SPIELBERG USED TRICKS TO GET THE PERFORMANCE OUT OF HIS CHILD ACTOR.


Columbia Pictures

Cary Guffey, who plays little Barry Guiler, had never acted before, so Spielberg set up ways to coax a performance out of the 3-year-old. To get a shot of Guffey reacting to the aliens first approaching the Guiler house, Spielberg slowly unwrapped a present for the young actor just off camera, making him smile. Guffey even exclaims “Toys! Toys!” in the final take.

To get the boy to react to the aliens offscreen, Spielberg had Guffey walk up to his mark where—unbeknownst to the little actor—two crewmembers were dressed as a gorilla and a clown standing behind cardboard blinds. When Guffey entered the kitchen, Spielberg dropped the first blind revealing the clown to scare him, and then dropped the other blind to reveal the gorilla, which scared him even more. The gorilla then took off his mask, revealing the film’s makeup man, Bob Westmoreland, who Guffey recognized, causing him to laugh and smile in the final take.

11. THE MOVIE NEARLY FEATURED VERY EARLY CGI.

Spielberg originally toyed with the idea of using computer generated images to create the aliens and their ships, even going so far as to have animator Colin Cantwell create a CGI test of three UFOs floating over a stadium. The single-shot test, which took three weeks to complete and was one of the first computer generated images ever created for a film, proved to be unfeasible for the whole movie—so the idea was dropped.

12. THERE WERE SOME UNORTHODOX IDEAS FOR CREATING THE ALIENS.

Spielberg wanted the aliens to be non-human beings that glided instead of walked, and he had a weird idea to pull it off: An orangutan dressed in a specially-made suit. For a screen test, the production team outfitted an orangutan in grey spandex and strapped it into roller skates. The orangutan immediately took off the skates and crawled to its owner, so a full test couldn’t be completed, and the team scrapped the idea. The majority of the small aliens in the final movie were played by local elementary school girls from Mobile in specially made grey suits and masks who were heavily backlit to create the final alien silhouette effect.

13. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS FEATURES A PRECURSOR TO E.T.


Columbia Pictures

To create the alien who bids farewell using the musical hand signals at the end of the film, Spielberg enlisted the help of Italian special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, who designed a fully articulated steel, aluminum, and fiberglass animatronic puppet that Spielberg nicknamed “Puck.” Puck’s expressions were based on photos of Guffey. The puppet was operated by a crew of seven puppeteers, with Spielberg himself controlling the final articulation before the alien leaves to go to the mothership.

Puck would help inspire E.T. after Spielberg asked himself, “What if this little guy didn’t get back on the mothership?” Rambaldi would also go on to design the character of E.T.

14. SPIELBERG BET AGAINST HIS OWN MOVIE—AND REALLY CASHED IN.

Spielberg and his buddy George Lucas both had new movies coming out in 1977; Lucas’s was a little movie called Star Wars. Lucas thought his ramshackle space movie wouldn’t make back its budget, and he knew his friend’s new movie would break box office records just like Jaws had done, so he offered Spielberg a friendly wager. Both agreed to give the other 2.5 percent of the profits of their respective films. Lucas grossly underestimated his movie, which went on to become the second highest grossing movie of all time if adjusted for inflation (in comparison, Close Encounters is #71). The difference ended up being $40 million.

15. SPIELBERG DIDN'T LIKE THE VERSION THAT WAS INITIALLY RELEASED.

Spielberg wanted to release Close Encounters in the summer of 1978, which would have given him ample time to edit the film and finish its special effects—but Columbia Pictures, which was going through major financial troubles, insisted he have it ready for a November 1977 release, leaving the director with a final cut on a movie he didn’t feel was completely ready. 

Three years later, the company allowed Spielberg to “finish” the movie under one condition: That he show the inside of the mothership, which would give the studio’s marketing department an angle to sell this new version. The director capitulated, adding new scenes and cutting others to create a “Special Edition.” The director was unhappy with the scene, though, and later cut it for the Collector's Edition home video release.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:Blu-ray special features; Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Classic FilmClose Encounters of the Third Kind Diary.

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10 Treasures From the New York Academy of Medicine Library
A urine wheel from Fasciculus Medicinae
A urine wheel from Fasciculus Medicinae
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Tucked away on a side street near Central Park, the New York Academy of Medicine Library is one of the most significant historical medical libraries in the world. Open to the public by appointment since the 19th century, its collection includes 550,000 volumes on subjects ranging from ancient brain surgery to women's medical colleges to George Washington's dentures. A few weeks ago, Mental Floss visited to check out some of their most fascinating items connected to the study of anatomy. Whether it was urine wheels or early anatomy pop-up books, we weren't disappointed.

1. FASCICULUS MEDICINAE (1509)

The Fasciculus Medicinae is a compilation of Greek and Arabic texts first printed in Venice in 1491. While it covers a variety of topics including anatomy and gynecology, the book begins with the discipline considered most important for diagnosing all medical issues at the time: uroscopy (the study of urine). The NYAM Library's curator, Anne Garner, showed us the book's urine wheel, which once had the various flasks of urine colored in to help aid physicians in their diagnosis. Each position of the wheel corresponded to one of the four humors, whether it was phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, or melancholic. The image on the left, Garner explains, "shows the exciting moment where a servant boy brings his flasks to be analyzed by a professor." Other notable images in the book include one historians like to call "Zodiac Man," showing how the parts of the body were governed by the planets, and "Wound Man," who has been struck by every conceivable weapon, and is accompanied by a text showing how to treat each type of injury. Last but not least, the book includes what's believed to be the first printed image of a dissection.

2. ANDREAS VESALIUS, DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA (1543)

Andreas Vesalius's Fabrica
Frontispiece of Andreas Vesalius's Fabrica
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Andreas Vesalius, born 1514, was one of the most important anatomists who ever lived. Thanks to him, we moved past an understanding of the human body based primarily on the dissection of animals and toward training that involved the direct dissection of human corpses. The Fabrica was written by Vesalius and published when he was a 28-year-old professor at the University of Padua. Its detailed woodcuts, the most accurate anatomical illustrations up to that point, influenced the depiction of anatomy for centuries to come. "After this book, anatomy divided up into pre-Vesalian and post-Vesalian," Garner says. You can see Vesalius himself in the book's frontispiece (he's the one pointing to the corpse and looking at the viewer). "Vesalius is trying to make a point that he himself is doing the dissection, he believes that to understand the body you have to open it up and look at it," Garner explains.

3. THOMAS GEMINUS, COMPENDIOSA (1559)

Flap anatomy from Thomas Geminus's Compendiosa
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

There was no copyright in the 16th century, and Vesalius's works were re-used by a variety of people for centuries. The first was in Flemish printer and engraver Thomas Geminus’s Compendiosa, which borrowed from several of Vesalius's works. The first edition was published in London just two years after the Fabrica. Alongside a beautiful dedication page made for Elizabeth I and inlaid with real gemstones, the book also includes an example of a "flap anatomy" or a fugitive leaf, which was printed separately with parts that could be cut out and attached to show the various layers of the human body, all the way down to the intestines. As usual for the time, the female is depicted as pregnant, and she holds a mirror that says "know thyself" in Latin.

4. WILLIAM COWPER, THE ANATOMY OF HUMANE BODIES (1698)

Illustration from William Cowper's The Anatomy of Humane Bodies
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

After Vesalius, there was little new in anatomy texts until the Dutch anatomist Govard Bidloo published his Anatomia humani corporis in 1685. The work was expensive and not much of a financial success, so Bidloo sold excess plates to the English anatomist William Cowper, who published the plates with an English text without crediting Bidloo (a number of angry exchanges between the two men followed). The copperplate engravings were drawn by Gérard de Lairesse, who Garner notes was "incredibly talented." But while the engravings are beautiful, they're not always anatomically correct, perhaps because the relationship between de Lairesse and Bidloo was fraught (Bidloo was generally a bit difficult). The skeleton shown above is depicted holding an hourglass, by then a classic of death iconography.

5. 17TH-CENTURY IVORY MANIKINS

17th Century Ivory Manikin
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

These exquisite figures are a bit of a mystery: It was originally thought that they were used in doctors’ offices to educate pregnant women about what was happening to their bodies, but because of their lack of detail, scholars now think they were more likely expensive collector's items displayed in cabinets of curiosity by wealthy male physicians. The arms of the manikins (the term for anatomical figures like this) lift up, allowing the viewer to take apart their removable hearts, intestines, and stomachs; the female figure also has a little baby inside her uterus. There are only about 100 of these left in the world, mostly made in Germany, and NYAM has seven.

6. BERNHARD SIEGFRIED ALBINUS, TABULAE SCELETI (1747)

Illustration from Bernhard Siegfried Albinus's Tabulae Sceleti
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

One of the best-known anatomists of the 18th century, the Dutch anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus went to medical school at age 12 and had a tenured position at the University of Leiden by the time he was 24. The Tabulae Sceleti was his signature work. The artist who worked on the text, Jan Wandelaar, had studied with Gérard de Lairesse, the artist who worked with Bidloo. Wandelaar and Albinus developed what Garner says was a bizarre method of suspending cadavers from the ceiling in the winter and comparing them to a (very cold and naked) living person lying on the floor in the same pose. Albinus also continued the dreamy, baroque funerary landscape of his predecessors, and his anatomy is "very, very accurate," according to Garner.

The atlas also features an appearance by Clara, a celebrity rhinoceros, who was posed with one of the skeletons. "When Albinus is asked why [he included a rhinoceros], he says, 'Oh, Clara is just another natural wonder of the world, she's this amazing creation,' but really we think Clara is there to sell more atlases because she was so popular," Garner says.

7. FERDINAND HEBRA, ATLAS DER HAUTKRANKHEITEN (1856–1876)

Circus performer Georg Constantin as depicted in Ferdinand Hebra's dermatological atlas
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

By the mid-19th century, dermatology had started to emerge as its own discipline, and the Vienna-based Ferdinand Hebra was a leading light in the field. He began publishing this dermatological atlas in 1856 (it appeared in 10 installments), featuring chromolithographs that showed different stages of skin diseases and other dermatological irregularities.

"While some of the images are very disturbing, they also tend to adhere to Victorian portrait conventions, with very ornate hair, and [subjects] looking off in the distance," Garner says. But one of the most famous images from the book has nothing to do with disease—it's a depiction of Georg Constantin, a well-known Albanian circus performer in his day, who was covered in 388 tattoos of animals, flowers, and other symbols. He travelled throughout Europe and North America, and was known as "Prince Constantine" during a spell with Barnum's Circus. (The image is also available from NYAM as a coloring sheet.)

8. KOICHI SHIBATA, OBSTETRICAL POCKET PHANTOM (1895)

19th century Obstetrical Pocket Phantom
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Obstetrical phantoms, often made of cloth, wood, or leather, were used to teach medical students about childbirth. This "pocket phantom" was originally published in Germany, and Garner explains that because it was made out of paper, it was much cheaper for medical students. The accompanying text, translated in Philadelphia, tells how to arrange the phantom and describes the potential difficulties of various positions.

9. ROBERT L. DICKINSON AND ABRAM BELSKIE, BIRTH ATLAS (1940)

Image from Robert Dickinson's Birth Atlas
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

Robert Dickinson was a Brooklyn gynecologist, early birth control advocate, and active member of NYAM. His Birth Atlas is illustrated with incredibly lifelike terracotta models created by New Jersey sculptor Abram Belskie. The models were exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair, where they became incredibly popular, drawing around 700,000 people according to Garner. His depictions "are very beautiful and serene, and a totally different way of showing fetal development than anything that had come before," Garner notes.

10. RALPH H. SEGAL, THE BODYSCOPE (1948)

The Bodyscope
Courtesy New York Academy of Medicine Library

This midcentury cardboard anatomy guide contains male and female figures as well as rotating wheels, called volvelles, that can be turned to display details on different parts of the body as well as accompanying explanatory text. The Bodyscope is also decorated with images of notable medical men—and "wise" sayings about God's influence on the body.

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