Science of “Monsters”

At the time when people had limited scientific knowledges, mutated animals could be easily interpreted as omen. In 18th century, lots of local farmers in Paris witnessed the births of various mutated animals. Thankfully, some farmers sent the mutated animals to the Ecole Veterinaire d’Alfort, a veterinary school in Paris, for further identification and most of the animals had been used for scientific research. On the first day of our NBB Paris Study Abroad Program, we visited Musee Fragnoard, a museum contains animal dissections and skeletons, located in the Ecole Veterinaire d’Alfort. Musee Fragnoard is named after Honoré Fragnoard, the school’s first professor of anatomy, and he was famous for the preparation and preservation of skinned cadavers.

 Exhibition of infectious disease organs and models.

There were lots of interesting exhibits at the museum. One of my favorite collection was the exhibition of infectious diseases found in both human and animals. In the exhibition, there was a face model of a previous vet student who died because he was infected with virus that transmitted from the animal he performed surgery on.

 Me in front of the Hydrocephalus exhibit.

In the museum, I was also able to see the hydrocephalus model of human infants and two actual skulls of animals with hydrocephalus. For the hydrocephalus exhibit, all of the skulls were not enclosed and the cranial cavities were super enlarged. Hydrocephalus is a condition caused by the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in skull. The trapped CSF will cause ventricle enlargement and usually requires surgical intervention. Hydrocephalus are commonly caused by hemorrhage or infection. Hydrocephalus found in infants and the symptoms are quite different for pediatric and adult hydrocephalus. Common symptoms of infant hydrocephalus are vomiting, seizure and downward deviation of eyes. In contrast, adult patients are more likely to experience motor and cognition impairment, blurred vision and urinary incontinence (National Institue of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, 2017). Therefore, the anatomical differences, especially for cranial cavity size and skull development, between pediatric and adult patients cause differences in resulting symptoms.

Since the museum collection dates back to 18th century, I found a review article related to the history of hydrocephalus treatment. The first treatment was reported in 10th century with a procedure to remove superficial intracranial fluid. Then, they were several attempts using ventricular puncture. The effective treatment wasn’t invented till the late 19th century due to the lack of understanding of pathophysiology, aseptic techniques and insufficient material. On early 20th century, the development of shunt, a device that direct extra CSF to other body areas for absorption, was successful with the development of artificial valve that opened by pressure. If condition allows, ventriculostomy could also performed to surgically create a hole within cerebral ventricle for direct drainage (Aschoff, et al., 1999).

After reading the article, I was amazed by the development of surgical treatment of hydrocephalus and I really appreciate the effort of vet student and professors in their contribution of preliminary researches. It was a fun trip full of astonishing preserved organs. I’m looking forward for the future adventure with Dr. Easterling and all of the people who came on the trip!!!


National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke.  (2017, May 10). Hydrocephalus Fact Sheet. Retrieved June 1, 2018, from

Aschoff, A., Kremer, P., Hashemi, B., & Kunze, S. (1999). The scientific history of hydrocephalus and its treatment. Neurosurgical Review,22(2-3), 67-93. doi:10.1007/s101430050035

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