In the late 1940s to early 1950s, medical color television was sold to American hospital administrators and educators as a unique and enhanced form of vision that could modernize, improve upon, and replace the surgical amphitheater. Television and pharmaceutical industry actors, along with medical educators and administrators, asserted such claims in their marketing materials and statements to the press: they positioned color television as the ideal tool for medical education. This essay examines how the use of color medical television during this period intersects with, elucidates, and alters both the history of medical education and surgical space, and the discourses around television’s relationship to human perception and experience. I focus on the production and visual practices of medical television, concentrating on the expertise of those working in color development for national television networks in the live closed-circuit broadcasts of medical techniques within healthcare institutions. In doing so, I will show that medical color television’s promise to establish a virtual surgical amphitheater relied upon the material construction and maintenance of the in-house hospital television studio, which in turn eventually reconfigured a number of the everyday management, procedures, and visual strategies of the teaching hospital.


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pp. 772-797
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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