Photographing the larynx.

Cutter, Ephraim.

Serial : Archives of Laryngology ; vol. iii.

New York : G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1882.

Description : pages 223-224.

Subject : Medical photography.



IN 1862 Czermak showed me his photograph of his larynx, after one of his lectures in Paris. It was a double one for the sciopticon.

He told me about the procedures, and when I returned home to this country I determined to repeat his work, but I did not get fairly at it until November, 1865. My modus was very simple: First, I employed a first-class photographer, Mr. F. Willard Hardy, A.M., now of Springfield, Mass. He came with his apparatus and chemicals and stayed with me about one week, and gave his whole time and attention to the effort. After trying several procedures, the best results were had with a one-quarter-plate camera mounted on a photographer's head-rest. The camera rested on a triangular board, to which an iron rod was attached at right angles near its centre. The rod fitted in the socket at the top of the upper part of the frame of the head-rest stand, the head-rest being removable.

A clear sunlight day was selected, and by means of a mirror mounted on the end of a stand that had two joints moving in plane at right angles to each other, like the wrist and elbow joints, and the mirror itself being capable of revolving in a circle, the sunlight was thrown into my mouth at an angle of about 22 1/2 degrees with the floor of the room, which had only one window and thus no cross lights. The camera was set on the same angle as the incident ray. It was so arranged that I occupied the angle of the letter V; the camera occupied the left hand of the letter V, and the incident ray occupied the right hand of the letter V. Distance of camera, about two feet—that is, the nose of the camera, if approximated more closely, would cut off the incident ray.

We, Mr. Hardy and I, first practised on the mouth and got some very satisfactory pictures. We next took the epiglottis, afterward the larynx. Here we met with a practical difficulty: when the epiglottis was in focus, the vocal bands would be out of focus or foggy. When the vocal bands were in focus, the epiglottis would appear as if cut off squarely but roughly. Of course the camera pictures were smaller than the natural size of the parts, and the plates were afterward enlarged by copying. Specimens of the work were deposited in the Army Medical Museum at Washington, and exhibited to Prof. Elsberg and Dr. Cohen. The photograph of Dr. Czermak did not give the thyroid insertion of the vocal bands. He said he could not get it. I thought myself then quite fortunate in getting a good picture of the thyroid insertion of my own vocal bands.

Nearly seventeen years have elapsed since these photographs were taken, and Mr. Hardy says he can do much better now, with the modern gelatine plates than with the wet ones. Dr. Elsberg has in his possession a photograph of Czermak's larynx taken by Dr. Stein of Frankfort-on-the Main. Aside from Stein's and Czermak's, my own are the only successful efforts in this direction so far as I know. I must say I look on all these as more valuable to show how the early laryngologists tried to perfect their art, than as of clinical value. One detail can be photographed, but the others have to suffer. Still I would like to see further efforts encouraged, and this explains the object of this note.

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