Thinking 3D: Visualizing the Brain from the Renaissance to the Present

This September,  Vanderbilt’s Annette and Irwin Eskind Family Biomedical Library presents Thinking 3D: Visualizing the Brain from the Renaissance to the Present, an exhibition that is part of a collaborative year-long initiative with Oxford University, the University of St. Andrews, and the Royal College of Physicians, London, among others. This international series of exhibitions explores the history of the concept of three-dimensionality and its influence on human perception and technological development.

Vanderbilt’s exhibition focuses on the origins of modern neuroscience, exploring human perception through studies and imagery of the brain. From sixteenth-century works of anatomists like Andreas Vesalius to stereograms and three-dimensional models of the human brain, the exhibition examines the ways that physicians, anatomists, and scientists have sought to depict and explain brain anatomy and function.

The exhibition will feature treasures from Vanderbilt’s History of Medicine Collections, as well as several rare items on loan from Vanderbilt alumnus Dr. Arthur E. Lyons, who has one of the world’s finest private collections of works on the history of neuroanatomy and neurosurgery. Items from Dr. Lyons’ collection include an illustrated 1508 encyclopedia by the German humanist Gregor Reisch, a 1537 neuroanatomy by Johannes Dryander, and a rare Latin edition of Rene Descartes’ philosophical work, De Homine. Books from Vanderbilt’s collections include Andreas Vesalius’ Fabrica (1555), Govard Bidloo’s Anatomia Humani Corporis, and English anatomist Thomas Willis’s Cerebri Anatome (1664). Recent acquisitions to Vanderbilt’s collections on display include Sir Humphrey Ridley’s The Anatomy of the Brain (1695) and a 19th-century papier-mâché brain designed as a teaching model by French physician Louis Auzoux.

The exhibition will run through October 31, 2019. A grand opening will be held on September 12, with a lecture by Daryl Green of Magdalen College, Oxford, England.

Schedule of Events:

  • September 12, 4-5:30pm: Grand Opening and lecture with Daryl Green, Oxford’s lead “thinker” behind the Thinking 3-D initiative, Eskind Biomedical Library.
  • September 25, 12-1: A Virtual Reality Lunch with Vanderbilt Assistant Professor of History Ole Molvig at Stevenson Science and Engineering Library, room 3211.
  • October 1, 12-1: A Health Plus video viewing and Mindful Break at the History of Medicine Collections in the Eskind Biomedical Library.
  • October 9, 4-5: A lecture by Professor of French Holly Tucker, Mellon Foundation Chair in the Humanities and director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, at the History of Medicine Collections in the Eskind Biomedical Library.

For more information about the other Thinking 3D exhibitions, please visit

The Vanderbilt History of Medicine Collections is located in the Annette and Irwin Eskind Biomedical Library and Learning Center and holds over 12,000 volumes on the History of Medicine, as well as thousands of feet of archival material and medical instruments and artifacts. The exhibition is open to the public. For hours of operation, see:

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