Dr Auzoux’s anatomical and botanical teaching models at Perkins

Dr Auzoux’s Anatomical and Botanical Teaching Models at Perkins

First layer inside view of anatomical model of the eye by Dr. Louis Auzoux, circa 1891

Dr. Louis Auzoux

In the second decade of the 19th Century an anatomy student named Louis Thomas Jérôme Auzoux (1797–1880), taking inspiration from earlier anatomical models made of wax, wood, and papier-mâché, came up with an improved technique for creating these teaching models that would make him famous. Born in 1789 in Normandy, France, Auzoux began medical training in Paris in 1816, a time when lectures were conducted in large amphitheaters and the supply of bodies for human dissection could not meet demand (Cocks, 229). To address the need for hands-on training, anatomical models were in use, but costly, not realistic enough, and not likely to withstand repeated use (Cocks, 230).

After researching existing techniques, Auzoux decided the papier-mâché models were constructed of the best material but went on to create his own signature paste noted for its malleability (Cocks, 230). Auxoux sculpted this paste using molds created from anatomical drawings, added metal or wire supportive structures for strength and finished off the models with details that could include glass and wire (Cocks, 230-231). The addition of hooks allowed the models to be “dissectible,” creating a means of opening and closing layers within layers (Cocks, 231). Labels were applied to the models directly and later a numbering system that included arrows and a key allowed for independent learning (Cocks, 231).

Auzoux’s anatomical models went on display at the French Academy of Medicine in 1822, and he and his models became internationally known and sought after (Olry, 32). The French government put in an order in January of 1824 with the intention that they would be used to teach anatomy in the colonies (Olry, 32). In 1861 Auzoux would expand the collection to include botanical models (Cocks, 231).

Auxoux models at Perkins

Tactile models have been utilized in Perkins’ curriculum since its beginning. Perkins’ second Director Michael Anagnos was particularly enthusiastic about collecting “tangible objects” to expand the school’s collection for student use (McGinnity, et al., “Science”). In the 1882 Annual Report, Anagnos called the 1880 acquisition of Auzoux’s complete botanical model collection and selected anatomical models their most “important” additions (Anagnos, 48). Perkins Librarian Nelson Coon wrote in the of the March 1948 issue of The Lantern that, “Auzoux’s botanical models were bought in France, by Mr. Anagnos, in 1880 at a great expense, but an expense justified by their value for those pupils who could not explore plants with a microscope” (Coon, 8). Coon summarizes the value of the Auzoux’s models by stating that, “it should be noted that the Auzoux models are so carefully selected and designed that the whole ascending ladder of the plant world from fungi to composites can be demonstrated by their use” (Coon, 8).

Perkins still has some of Auxoux’s anatomical and botanical models. The photograph below, which includes a close up of the pea pod model appears to be the same model in the Archives Collection. The Perkins Museum currently has one of Auxoux’s flower bud models on display in the Science exhibit.

Circa 1893 photograph of a table covered in botanical models and a close up of the pea pod.
Table covered with tactile models of fruits and flowers for a botany lesson at Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind, South Boston, circa 1893. A Closeup of the pea on the table is shown in magnification. It is open and shows three peas inside.
Tiles images of current photographs of the pea pod model in several stages of dissection.
Four current photographs of what appears to be the same pea pod model from the 1800s, now part of the Perkins Archives Collection. It is accompanied by a photograph of the pea pod opened up, and a close up of a pea that also opens up. Paper labels are in French with tiny illustrations of fingers pointing to indicate where the clasps are that open up to other layers. The pieces are painted in many different shades of green.

Works cited

Anagnos Michael. “Collections of Tangible Objects, Library, Ect.” Annual Report of the Trustees of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, no. 27, 1881, pp.48-49. Internet Archive. Accessed 10 Jan. 2020.

Cocks, Margaret Maria. “Dr Louis Auzoux and his collection of papier-mâché flowers, fruits and seeds.” The Journal of the History of Collections, vol. 26, no. 2, 2014, pp. 229-248.

Coon, Nelson. “The oak: A study of models and methods.” The Lantern, vol. 17, no. 3, March 15, 1948, pp. 3, 8

McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Science. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA. Accessed 9, Jan. 2020.

Olry, Regis. “Wax, Wooden, Ivory, Cardboard, Bronze, Fabric, Plaster, Rubber and Plastic Anatomical Models: Praiseworthy Precursors of Plastinated Specimens.” The Journal of Plastination, vol. 15, no. 1, 2000, pp. 30-35. Accessed 9, Jan. 2020.

Suggested citation

Hale, Jen. “Dr. Auzoux’s anatomical and botanical teaching models at Perkins.” Perkins Archives Blog, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown MA. January 9, 2020.

Portrait of Cora Crocker, a Perkins student with deafblindness, wearing a long white dress and leaning against an ornately carved wooden chair. Portrait studio backdrop has a classical column at the top right.

Cora Crocker

Close-up of the Christmas Concert Program from 1935 that reads, "Perkins Institution invites you to attend the Concert of Christmas Music".

Christmas Concert with address by Farrell, 1935

Display of talking books for blind readers from the Library of Congress, 1958.

1935 WPA talking book machine address