Lennart Nilsson-A Swedish Photographer Spent 12 Years Of His Life Taking Pictures Of The Foetus Growing In The Womb

Lennart Nilsson, a Swedish photographer, spent 12 years taking pictures of the fetus as it develops in the womb. He used conventional cameras that had macro lenses, a scanning electron microscope and an endoscope. He ‘worked’ literary in the womb and used a magnification of hundred of thousands. The first photo Nilsson took was in 1965.

Sperm in the Fallopian tube
Sperm in the Fallopian tube. Image source:
photograph of the human fetus from inside the womb.
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The winning sperm
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the very first time in history on that year, Nilsson succeeded in taking a photograph of the human fetus from inside the womb. He was able to create images of high resolution showing the different stages of human development, using the help of endoscopic cameras, electron microscopes and other techniques. A Child is Born became a major breakthrough for him and the rest of the world in medical photography.
Embryo, Image source:
Fetal Development
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Foetus, Image source:
Beginning in 1953, A Child is Born took a total of 12 years to complete. LIFE magazine published The Drama of Life before Birth, a cover article of 16 pages containing Nilsson’s photographs. 8 million copies produced sold out in a few days. Along with the moon landing and John F Kennedy’s assassination, the article is still among some of LIFE Magazine’s most important stories.
8th week
8th week, Image source:
10 weeks. The eyelids are semi-shut. They will close completely in a few days.
10 weeks. The eyelids are semi-shut. They will close completely in a few days. Image source:
Foetus Growing In The Womb
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Around the same year LIFE magazine published his photos, Nilsson published ‘A Child is Born‘. The book became a huge success too, especially among expectant mothers and connoisseurs of photography. It received lots of praise by many, who described it as providing simple and accurate scientific explanations of the complicated processes that take place during development.
10 weeks
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16 weeks.
16 weeks. The skeleton consists mainly of flexible cartridge. A network of blood vessels is visible through the thin skin. Image source:
18 weeks
18 weeks: Approximately 14 cm. The foetus can now perceive sounds from the outside world. Image source:
His intention on writing the book was to provide expectant mothers with a practical guide. To do this, Nilsson addressed myths and common anxieties about pregnancy. He provided mothers with a photographic account of the growth of a fetus from conception to birth. Claes Wirsen,a doctor at the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden and Professor Axel Ingelman-Sundberg, of Sabbatsberg Hospital in Stockholm, helped Nilsson write the text in the book. The book is written chronologically from pre-conception to post-delivery. It has photos of actual embryos, fetuses and babies. It also has scientific illustrations and anatomical diagrams that accompany descriptions of the biological processes.
20 weeks
20 weeks: Approximately 20 cm. Woolly hair, known as lanugo, covers the entire head.Image source:
26th week.
26th week. Image source:
Foetus Growing In The Womb
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The book has since then been published in 5 editions and in over 20 countries. A recent edition of the book was published in 2009. In the same year, Lennart Nilsson got awarded the Professor honorary title by the Swedish government. This award is given when one has made a huge significant educational contribution.

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