Autochromes Lumière

Maurice Letulle, Professor of Pathology

Maurice Letulle practised two professions: he was both a medical specialist of pathology and a professor. Not surprisingly, he considered seriously the choice of material he might use to support his lectures and with which he would form a "bibliothèque de pathologies" [library of pathologies] for himself and his colleagues.

While he had initially formed a collection of inclusions (surgical specimens conserved in a solution of formaldehyde), it was heavy and cumbersome. Around 1911, when the Lumière brothers were popularising the Autochrome technique, Letulle used them to take photos of macro- and microscopic pathologies. The Autochrome offered two advantages: they provided a genuine sample of the condition in question, and moreover, they were easy to transport and display. Colourants, which acted as a probe in the exploration of tissues, were essential to 19th and 20th century medical imagery of pathology. This was especially the case when the application of a colourant to a tissue engendered a visible chromatic reaction.

Maurice Letulle prepared the histological slices that he photographed through a microscope himself. To these photographs of microscopic pathological anatomy, he added macroscopic images of unhealthy organs and portraits of patients. His collection also included photographs of the plague in Manchuria and medical examination demonstrations, such as an auscultation and a methodical examination of a heart. Eugène Normand, as well as the technician Mrs. Blondeau-Clark aided him in this work, but Maurice Letulle himself decided the Autochromes' classifications by organ and lesion. This original classification has been maintained along with the legends he inscribed on each of the glass plates.