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Visible Human Project

Three images created from Visible Human Data around 2000 in contrast to similar images drawn by Leonardo DaVinci around 1500.
Project information

NLM/LHNCBC's Visible Human Project® (VHP) enables education, diagnosis, treatment planning, virtual reality, and virtual surgeries, through the use of its publicly-available Visible Man and Visible Woman reference data sets obtained from human cadavers.

While NLM/LHNCBC-funded VHP research and development were completed in 1996, the VHP data sets are still being licensed to researchers and research articles are still acknowledging their use of VHP data. Links to VHP citations in NLM's Current Bibliographies in Medicine are given below.

NLM thanks the man and the woman who each willed their body to science, thereby enabling this research and development.

Please send queries about the Project to:

The header above contains three images created from Visible Human Data around 2000 in contrast to similar images drawn by Leonardo DaVinci around 1500.


The Visible Human Project® was an outgrowth of NLM's 1986 Long-Range Plan. Its long-term goal was to produce a system of knowledge structures that transparently link visual knowledge forms to symbolic knowledge formats such as the names of body parts.

The Project involved the creation of complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies. It included the acquisition of transverse CT, MRI, and cryosection images of representative male and female cadavers. The male was sectioned at one millimeter intervals, the female at one-third of a millimeter intervals.

The University of Colorado Health Sciences Center was the contractor for this project.


On NLM Web sites

A description of VHP image data sets and how to obtain them -- includes license agreement documents and a map of locations of VHP licensees.

VHP FactSheet.

The Visible Human Project®: From Data to Knowledge: An update of ongoing NLM VHP initiatives.

Digitally encoded videos - requires RealPlayer.

VHP images and animations sampler.

Also: Visible Human Project at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Selected NLM Visible Human Project® Initiatives

AnatQuest: The overall goal of the AnatQuest project is to explore and implement new visually and compelling ways to bring anatomic images from the Visible Human dataset to the general public. Includes 3D renderings and labeled views.

Cryosection, MRI, and CT image data of the head of a 72 year old male. Cryosections done at 0.174mm intervals and photographed at a resolution of 1056 x 1528 pixels. Work done at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, under contract to NLM. Available only to VHP license holders. These images can be found in the directory BWH_Harvard when logged on to the NLM image server.

Insight Toolkit (ITK): An open-source software toolkit for performing registration and segmentation, developed by six principal organizations under contract to the NLM, three commercial (Kitware, GE Corporate R&D, and Insightful), and three academic (UNC Chapel Hill, University of Utah, and University of Pennsylvania).

The Visible Human Project ATLAS of Functional Human Anatomy, version 1.0 The Head and Neck, developed under contract to NLM by the University of Colorado Center for Human Simulation.

Projects Based on the Visible Human Data Sets

Applications for viewing images

Sources of images and animations


Related Projects: For example, a virtual human embryo.

VHP Conference Proceedings

The conferences were held at the William H. Natcher Conference Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The information presented here is identical to that distributed on CD-ROM to conference attendees. Please refer to section "Disc Info" or "About This CD-ROM", for pertinent information.

The Fourth Visible Human Project® Conference. 2002. No further information available online.

The Third Visible Human Project® Conference. 2000 Oct 5-6.

The Second Visible Human Project® Conference. 1998 Oct 1-2.

The Visible Human Project® Conference. 1996 Oct 7-8.

Media Productions: Video fly-throughs of spine and intestine, volume viewer, and navigation.

Tokyo Mirror Site

Tools: Includes animation, browsers and viewers, modeling and reconstruction, surface extraction, volume rendering and visualization, and treatment planning.

Translations of The Visible Human Project® Overview






The following are in addition to the Publications/Tools listed below:

Visible Human Journal of Endoscopy.

NLM's Current Bibliographies in Medicine, Visible Human Project®:

      -- (CBM 2010-3 to 2013-3) -- 75 citations from March 2010 through March 2013

      -- (CBM 2009-6 to 2010-3) -- 33 citations from June 2009 through March 2010

      -- (CBM 2007-4 to 2009-5) -- 38 citations from April 2007 through May 2009

      -- (CBM 2007-1) -- 912 citations from January 1987 through March 2007

Banvard RA. The Visible Human Project® Image Data Set From Inception to Completion and Beyond. Proceedings of CODATA 2002: Frontiers of Scientific and Technical Data, Track I-D-2: Medical and Health Data -- The US NLM's Visible Human Project® Data Sets; 2002 Sep 29-Oct 3; Montréal, Canada.

Ackerman MJ. Accessing the Visible Human Project®. D-Lib Magazine. 1995 Oct.

Ackerman MJ. Anatomy in the Digital Age. In: Rifkin BA, Ackerman MJ. Human Anatomy: From the Renaissance to the Digital Age. 2006 May 2. New York: Abrams. p. 318-329.
Benjamin A. Rifkin, Ackerman MJ. Human Anatomy (From the Renaissance to the Digital Age). New York: Harry N. Abrams; 2006. 344 pages.
Ackerman MJ. Visible Human Project. McGraw-Hill 2004 Yearbook of Science & Technology. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2004. p. 369-72.
Thoma GR, Razi A, Seamans J, Strupp-Adams A, Edwards L, Gao J, Ledoux MT. Dataset: AnatQuest
Ratiu P, Hillen B, Glaser J, Jenkins DB. Visible Human 2.0 - The Next Generation. In: Westwood JD, Hoffman HM, Mogel GT, Phillips R, Robb RA, Stredney D, editors. Stud Health Technol Inform [Studies in Health Technology and Informatics] -- Proceedings of the 11th annual Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference; 2003 Jan;94:275-81. Amsterdam: IOS Press.
Abstract |  PDF | PMID: 15455907
Ackerman MJ. Visible Human Project: From Data to Knowledge. In: Haux R, Kulikowski C, editors. Yearbook of Medical Informatics 2002: Medical Imaging Informatics. International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA). p. 115-7.
Ackerman MJ, Yoo T, Jenkins D. From Data to Knowledge - The Visible Human Project Continues. In: Patel VL, Rogers R, Haux R, editors. Stud Health Technol Inform [Studies in Health Technology and Informatics] – MEDINFO 2001: Proceedings of the 10th World Congress on Medical Informatics (2001 Sep 2-5; London);84(Part II):887-90. Amsterdam: IOS Press.
Abstract |  PDF | PMID: 11604860
Ackerman MJ, Banvard RA, guest editors. Computerized Medical Imaging and Graphics;24(3). Elsevier; 2000.
Ackerman MJ, Banvard RA. Imaging Outcomes from the National Library of Medicine's Visible Human Project. Comput Med Imaging Graph. 2000 May-Jun;24(3):125-6.
Abstract |  PDF | PMID: 10838006