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Dr. Louis Auzoux was a French doctor who made papier-mâché models of humans, animals, and plants for use in teaching medicine and anatomy.

'Dissectable' models

Dr. Auzoux's models were designed to be taken apart and put back together. 'Dissecting' the models provided a similar experience to examining real human bodies or animals. The models were known as 'clastic anatomies' (from the Greek word 'to break') because they could be taken apart.

New sciences, new models

Dr. Auzoux originally developed his models of human bodies and body parts for professional medical training. Because they were so useful for general education, they were widely adopted for teaching purposes around the world.

The public also benefited from Dr. Auzoux's knowledge, attending his lecture courses in anatomy and physiology that were specifically designed for a general audience. He even claimed that people could learn anatomy without the aid of an instructor simply by 'dissecting' the models by themselves, as many of the anatomical details were identified by labels in French. Other numbered labels, decorated with a small image of a hand, showed the order in which the models should be taken apart and reassembled by the student.

Dr. Auzoux founded a factory in his hometown in France for producing the models. Responding to changing trends in scientific research and education, the company began producing models of human embryos, animals and plants, as well as continuing to make models of adult humans.

Fame across France and beyond

In the 1820s Auzoux's models gained the approval of scientific and medical academies and he proudly publicised this when advertising his models.

Auzoux himself used his models for demonstrations in his own private lecture courses on anatomy and physiology for general audiences. Auzoux's company exhibited its teaching models at the industrial shows which took place in the second half of the 19th century, such as the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, where they received much praise and many prizes.

During the 19th century Auzoux models were sold throughout the world, until models in plastic or plaster increasingly replaced them. Auzoux became a household name: in 1844 sculptor Antoine L. Dantan (1798-1878) produced a bronze bust of him. Upon Auzoux's death, his grateful home town erected a monument in memory of its benefactor.

Rival companies

By the end of the 19th century, rival companies emerged and developed other forms of biological teaching models for general audiences, some of them made entirely of plaster.

These models were increasingly simplified and without labels, unlike many of Auzoux's densely labelled examples, as their makers claimed that a large number of details would only confuse an inexperienced student.

Read more:


Anna Maerker

Anna Maerker, 'Dr. Auzoux's life and work', Explore Whipple Collections, Whipple Museum of the History of Science, University of Cambridge, 2008.

Next Article: Inside Auzoux's Models

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