Beneath the Surface

(Stanford University Division Of Anatomy And
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This cross section of a human head, photographed more than half a century ago and later donated to the Stanford University School of Medicine, is now a digital research and teaching tool. It's one of 1,554 images made by William Gruber, inventor of the View-Master, a device that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s for viewing 3-D images.

Over 17 years, Gruber took photos of dissections made by renowned Stanford anatomist David Bassett, who labeled the images down to the smallest nerves and veins. Until last month, the photos were viewable only in textbooks or on View-Master slides at the school. Now they're accessible for a fee to any computer user.

"There's nothing else like the Bassett" collection, says Paul Brown, Stanford consulting associate professor of anatomy and founder of eHuman, a California company that builds libraries of anatomical images. "The number of man-hours spent cataloguing each photograph . . . it would cost millions and millions of dollars today."

A sampling of digitized images from the collection is viewable at Users can roll their mouse over a body part to learn its scientific name and how to pronounce it. More information may be incorporated later, "depending on how the medical community uses [the tool]," says eHuman chief executive Bob Austrian. Access costs $8 per month or $49.99 a year.

-- Kathleen Hom

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