One of the factors which contributed to a significant development of medicine was certainly photography. Thanks to the capture of pictures it became possible to record wounds and diseases with objective precision, utilised then afterwords by professional doctors in terms of research and clinical documentation.

Below: Edward Estelle, 41 years old, amputated arm after the gunshot which infected the wound and provoked a gangrene

Before photographers, artists were popular to be hired, and to whom it was asked to draw what they would see in the hospital. The medical photography started its course during the 40’s of the 19th century; the doctor and bacteriologist Alfred Francois Donne was the first one to use the camera to photograph bones and teeth.

Below: William A Donan, 26 years old after a gunshot

In the US, the NY doctor Reed. B. Bontecou started documenting the wounded soldiers coming from the Civil War fought between 1861 and 1865. Beyond treating the soldiers he decided to take pictures of their clinical status.

Below: Peter Strien, 21 year, hit during the battle of Fort Stedman

Bontecou documented wounded men, treatments, surgeries and the working place, all with an objective precision. The work of the doctor was fundamental to recognise an enormous number of victims of that war; furthermore the pictures taken were used by the court in order to determine the pensions of the veterans, as if the pictures were evidence of the injuries received. The pictures became the main source for the creation of the Otis Historical Archives (OHA) in the National Museum of Health and Medicine of Washington.

Below: Ludwig Kohn, 26 years old, hit during the battle of Gettysburg

The Burns Archive paid homage to the doctor in 2011 with the publishing of a book titled “Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography By Reed B. Bontecou,available on Amazon. The volume also contains the biography and story of the famous doctor and brilliant photographer.

Below: John H Bowers, 19 years old, hit during the battle of Petersburgh

Many soldiers were grateful to Bontecou right for his own pictures because, through them, they managed to obtain a pension as veterans.

Below: William Trefts, hit during the battle of Petersburgh

Below: Martin Restle, amputated leg after a gunshot and the following gangrene

Below: Edward Estelle, 42 years old, amputated left arm

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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