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Fresh eyes on freaks

The curator of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum reviews a new book about medical oddities and their place in our understanding of biology

Anna N. Dhody
I admit I was initially reluctant to review the book, linkurl:__Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution__,;http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Medicine/Neuroscience/?view=usa&ci=9780195322828# by linkurl:Mark S. Blumberg.;http://www.psychology.uiowa.edu/faculty/blumberg/blumberg.html I had always recoiled at the word freak; in my opinion an ignorant and dismissive slur used to relegate an individual to non-entity status, unworthy of serious attention. Then again, wouldn't dismissing this book as unworthy based on the title be just as dismissive? When people come to the Mütter Museum "to see the freaks" I cringe inwardly, smile outwardly and generally say nothing at all. I have found over the years that the inhabitants of this remarkable place say far more than I ever could. Whatever the reason for visiting the museum -- fascination, repulsion, even derision -- people tend to leave more informed and perhaps even more aware than when they arrive. And that is exactly how I felt after reading this book....

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