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Imaging the human body

I went to a wonderful lecture in Stirling yesterday. It was at the Stirling Smith, which is currently hosting ten Leonardo drawings from the Royal collection, and has an associated series of lunchtime lectures on Wednesdays until 31 October. If they can even approach the standard of yesterday's, it will be a truly remarkable series.

The speaker was John Reid, a Consultant Radiologist and a bit of a Renaissance man himself. He ranged widely over paintings, anatomy, astronomy and the physics of recent medical advances in imaging, with a talk supported by stunning visuals – without a note or script in sight. Articulate, interesting and professional, he even worked in a reference to Big Bang Day!

From X-rays to MRI, his exposition of the incredible advances in technique left us all the more bemused by how Leonardo managed such detailed, accurate and incisive drawings 500 years ago. His Vitruvian Man of 1487 embodies the mathematical proportions of Vitruvius in astonishing details. And I shan't forget Reid's movie of the human heart demonstrating its pumping through the mitral and tricuspid valves – with full three dimensional realism – for a very long time. It was superlative.

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