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Visible Woman Reveals All

Developments to Watch


HER NAME IS KNOWN ONLY TO A FEW, BUT A Maryland woman who died in 1993 at age 59 will win enduring fame on the Internet's World Wide Web. She's the Visible Woman from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and her digitized body will be used for countless computer experiments by doctors, biologists, and students.

After her death from heart disease, the woman's body was flown to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where it was scanned by magnetic-resonance imaging and computed-tomography systems. Then the body was frozen solid so it could be sliced up. Cameras recorded each new cross-section as some 5,200 shavings were carefully removed over four months. Finally, all the information was compiled into a huge database--with 39 billion bytes--that will soon be available online at

The Visible Woman isn't the first cadaver on the Web. Last year, the NLM assembled a Visible Man. But his body was sliced into only 1,878 sections, so the Visible Woman provides three times as much detail. This will help with the next steps: using the data to create simulations of body functions and digital models that will let surgeons hone their skills.EDITED BY PETER COY

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