Lines and Colors art blog

Fritz Kahn
Dr. Fritz Kahn was a Berlin based gynecologist who wrote and illustrated a number of popular science books that showed the processes of the human body as though they were machines.

While the metaphors may be limited in terms of actually understanding biological functions, they make for great imagery.

Kahn was active in the 1920’s. In the 1930’s his books were banned by the Nazis and copies were burned along with other works by Jewish intellectuals. He was expelled from Germany, and just before the onset of WW II, escaped from Europe to the U.S. with personal help from Albert Einstein.

There is a website devoted to Kahn and his work, that includes a gallery.

A large reproduction of the image above (shown with details) can be found at the National Library of Medicine as part of their Dream Anatomy feature (see my post on Dream Anatomy).

His book, Fritz Kahn: Man Machine Maschine Mensch is still available in an edition that includes both the original German text and an English translation.

Henning M. Lederer has created an animated and interactive interpretation of the work above, for which there is a preview video on YouTube.

[Via Cyriaque Lamar on io9]


2 responses to “Fritz Kahn”

  1. Fritz Kahn was my grandfather. Lately there has been renewed interest in his work, which is very exciting. His metaphor of the body as an industrial plant is very appropriate for the early 20th century. I have no way of knowing what metaphor he would use today, but it probably would include computers and wireless aspects.
    I am interested in metaphors for the religion for our age. We believe most deeply what we learn as truths at our parent’s laps. When children asks the most basic question now (what is life, what is the world) they are probably shown Earth from space. This must be so for the orthodox and the humanist. There is a world view that is broader than all religions. It needs a name. I propose Gaia Uinus.

  2. Kevin Krown Avatar
    Kevin Krown

    Dear Dror,

    I have had a long-term interest in the history of anatomy. In particular, I have a particular fascination with the metaphors your grandfather used in his diagrams. In fact, I incorporate some of his pictures in my lecture material. After he left Germany (I assume he escaped?), did he continue doing work in the US?