Embryonic images displayed in Life magazine during the mid-twentieth century serve as a representation of technological advances and the growing public interest in the stages of embryological development. These black-and-white photographs portray skeletal structures and intact bodies of chicken embryos and human embryos and fetuses obtained from collections belonging to universities and medical institutions.
Endoscopy is a medical procedure that enables the viewing and biopsy of, and surgery on, internal tissues and organs. Endoscopic examinations are characterized by the introduction of a tube containing a series of lenses into the body through either an incision in the skin or a natural opening or cavity. During the mid-twentieth century, photographer Lennart Nilsson used endoscopes to capture the now-familiar images of embryos and fetuses. Examples of endoscopic procedures beyond embryonic observation include colonoscopy, cystoscopy, neurosurgery, endoscopic sinus surgery, appendectomy, and many more.
Lennart Nilsson is a world-renowned photojournalist recognized for his exploratory images of the inside of the human body. Throughout his career, Nilsson has received a great deal of publicity for his images documenting the human reproductive system and the morphology of viruses. His photography was the first to capture early human development and the developmental stages of embryos and fetuses. These images have helped shape the way the public visualizes development.
In Birth without Violence (1975), French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer describes in poetic form the possible perceptions and feelings of embryos and fetuses before, during, and after birth. His work has helped to promote a gentler and more sensitive birthing method with the goal of easing the newborn's transition from the womb to the outside world. Leboyer's birthing method influenced later birth techniques such as water birth and unassisted childbirth.
Life Magazine's 1965 cover story "Drama of Life Before Birth" featured photographs of embryos and fetuses taken by Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson to document the developmental stages of a human embryo. Included in this article was the first published image of a living fetus inside its mother's womb. Prior to this, embryos and fetuses were observed, studied, and photographed outside of women's bodies as non-living specimens. Laparoscopic photography and sophisticated technology contributed to the capturing of these images, which appeared to represent living embryos and fetuses in womb-like environments.
Laparoscopy, a subfield of endoscopy, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and operate on the internal organs of the abdomen through a small incision in the abdominal wall. The term "laparoscopy" is derived from two Greek words: laparo, meaning the soft space between hips and ribs, and skopie, meaning to examine. Today laparoscopy has broad clinical applications including for diagnosis, fertility procedures, visual representation, and surgery.