The Magnus-Rademaker scientific film collection: Ethical issues on animal experimentation (1908-1940)

Peter Koehler*, B.G. Lameris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Magnus-Rademaker scientific film collection (1908–1940) deals with the physiology of body posture by the equilibrium of reflex musculature contractions for which experimental studies were carried out with animals (e.g., labyrinthectomies, cerebellectomies, and brain stem sections) as well as observations done on patients. The films were made for demonstrations at congresses as well as educational objectives and film stills
were published in their books. The purpose of the present study is to position these films and their makers within the contemporary discourse on ethical issues and animal rights in the Netherlands and the earlier international debates. Following an introduction on
animal rights and antivivisection movements, we describe what Magnus and Rademaker thought about these issues. Their publications did not provide much information in this
respect, probably reflecting their adherence to implicit ethical codes that did not need explicit mentioning in publications. Newspaper articles, however, revealed interesting
information. Unnecessary suffering of an animal never found mercy in Magnus’ opinion. The use of cinematography was expanded to the reduction of animal experimentation in
student education, at least in the case of Rademaker, who in the 1930s was involved in a governmental committee for the regulation of vivisection and cooperated with the
antivivisection movement. This resulted not only in a propaganda film for the movement but also in films that demonstrate physiological experiments for students with the purpose to avert repetition and to improve the teaching of experiments. We were able to identify the pertinent films in the Magnus-Rademaker film collection. The production of vivisection films with this purpose appears to have been common, as is shown in news
messages in European medical journals of the period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-121
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the History of the Neurosciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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