Autumn 2001 / Looking Back
Lend Me an Ear!

Former president James Loudon purchased this papier mâché ear from a leading medical model maker in the 19th century


Purchased in 1878 by James Loudon, professor of physics (and U of T president from 1892 to 1906), this 18-inch-high ear, constructed by Dr. Louis Auzoux of France, has had its inner, middle and outer workings probed for years by medical, science and physics students. In 1822 – the year he obtained his medical degree – Auzoux presented his first replica to the Paris Academy of Medicine. He developed anatomically correct models of body parts out of papier mâché, calling these mock-ups anatomy clastique (from the Greek word klastos, which means “broken in pieces”), because they could be taken apart and reassembled in the classroom. Considered one of the leaders in medical model-making, Auzoux was so successful that his Parisian company is still in business, and collectors and institutions covet his original work. In fact, this past July, Auzoux’s model of an eight-month-old fetus in a uterus was being offered for sale on the Internet. This ear originally cost 150 francs, which would have been the price of a student microscope then. If faculty and staff are successful in raising funds for a future museum of scientific instruments at U of T, it could one day be part of an exhibit there. Until then, Auzoux’s ear is wrapped in plastic and locked away in a box, out of earshot of the 2lst century.


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