August 16, 2006

Lennart Nilsson's A Child Is Born, And That NOVA Episode You Remember

lennart_nilsson_20wks.jpgIn the mid-1950's, Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson pioneered the use of endoscopy to take pictures inside the human body. Starting in 1965, his unbelievable photos of in utero fetuses and zygotes were published in magazines all over the world, and were sent in the Voyager space craft [and which will be the last thing humans see before V'Ger destroys the Earth in its attempt to merge with The Creator in 2272, but let's not worry about that now.]

More importantly for our purposes, Nilsson's book, A Child Is Born, is a fascinating melding of science and art. It's been kept in print for over 40 years, and Nilsson adds new pictures as new technologies make them possible, but the core is still the remarkable photos of feti--and the equally remarkably dated haircuts on those parents.

[Not that they're not without controversy. Nilsson's technique of depicting the fetus as a free-floating being independent from the mother's body has made them an influential factor in the debate over abortion, too.]

You can always get the latest edition (the 4th) of A Child Is Born, of course, but it might be cool to track down a first edition instead. [Or not. The one on Abebooks is $415, which seems mighty high for a book that sold 8 million copies in the first four days.]

Also from Nilsson, the 1983 documentary Miracle of Life, which WGBH calls the "most popular NOVA of all time." You could, of course, buy the DVD, but you can also watch the entire sequel, the 2001 Life's Greatest Miracle, online for free. Take your pick.

Lennart-palooza: there's a Nilsson exhibit at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis through Oct. 8. [asi]

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