Article ID: CBB312686900

Ada Potter and her microscopical neuroanatomy atlases (2022)


In his Recollections (1947), Dutch neuropsychiatrist Cornelis Winkler mentioned his colleague Ada Potter, who made many of the neuroanatomic drawings in his publications. She also made two microscopical brain atlases (of a rabbit and a cat) and participated in endeavors to publish a human brain atlas. Born on East Java (Dutch East Indies), Potter received her M.D. from the University of Amsterdam. She worked with Winkler until his retirement (1926) and then moved to the United States. Subsequently, she went back to East Java, practicing in an insane asylum. In the meantime, she was active in the women’s mancipation movement. After a short stay in Geneva, she returned to the Netherlands in 1939. The rabbit and cat atlases (1911 and 1914, respectively) were major projects that served animal experimenters up to the 1980s. They consist of 40 and 35 black-and-white plates, respectively, depicting microscopic fiber and cell structure drawings with extensive legends. In a period in which medical photography had fully developed, they preferred drawings, particularly because neurons in thick microscopical slices can only be seen by continuous focusing. The choice was shared by well-known neuroanatomists, such as Ramon y Cajal, who noted that drawing facilitates analysis and teaches scientists how to see.

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Authors & Contributors
Ertsen, M. W.
Marten Dondorp
Pepijn Brandon
Adam, Luthfi
Cherry, Haydon
John A. Edgington
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Design Research
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
History of Science
Archives of Natural History
Northwestern University
University of Chicago Press
United Nations University
Princeton University Press
E. Schweizerbart'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung
Broadway Books
Scientific illustration
Science and art
Human anatomy
Visual representation; visual communication
Hundt, Magnus
Dryander, Johannes
Kandel, Eric Richard
Seba, Albertus
Ruysch, Frederick
Ramón y Cajal, Santiago
Time Periods
18th century
20th century
19th century
17th century
16th century
Java (Indonesia)
East Indies
Amsterdam (Netherlands)
South America
Dutch East India Company

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