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.
In March 1999 Bradley Richard Smith, a professor at the University of Michigan, unveiled the first digital magnetic resonance images of human embryos. In his article "Visualizing Human Embryos for Scientific American," Smith displayed three-dimensional images of embryos using combinations of Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (MRM), light microscopy, and various computer editing. He created virtual embryo models that it is possible to view as dissections, animations, or in their whole 3D form. Smith's images constitute a new way of visualizing embryos. They served to help students, researchers, clinicians and the general public interested in the study and investigation of human embryonic development.
This embryology image is a pencil sketch by Nicolaas Hartsoeker, published as part of his 1694 French-language paper entitled Essai de Dioptrique, a semi-speculative work describing the sorts of new scientific observations that could be done using magnifying lenses. Dioptrique was published in Paris by the publishing house of Jean Anisson. The image depicts a curled up infant-like human, now referred to as a homunculus, inside the head of a sperm cell. This sketch is important to embryology because it is one of the most illustrative examples of preformationism, a theory of generation stating that each future member of any given species exists, fully formed though miniscule, within the gametic cells (sperm or eggs) of its parents. This theory was popular among naturalists in the eighteenth century.