Google’s Body Browser

Vesalius would be Proud

This morning, while browsing through science related twitter posts, I became aware of Google Lab’s new Body Browser, at

After downloading the Google Chrome browser, which appears to be required for the use of this website, I played around a bit, and took a few screen shots so that you could see what is available. 

The format is similar to Google Maps or Google Earth with regards to the clickable tool allowing one to zoom in and out, and to rotate left, right, up, and down.  Underneath this tool, is a sliding bar with icons for the different systems of the  human body.  As one slides the bar vertically through the icons, the human body progressively displays each system with the current system becoming more transparent as you pass into the next.  The systems are not identified but correspond to the external body, muscular system, skeletal system, internal organs, circulatory system, and nervous system (see the screen shot images that follow).

External Body

Muscular System

Skeletal System

Internal Organs

Circulatory System

Nervous System

As you can see in the next two images, you can zoom, turn on labels at the bottom of the sliding bar, and select a particular labeled item of interest.  Once selected that item will be highlighted relative to the surrounding tissue.  At the moment there aren’t links to information about the particular body parts you select, but I imagine that that will be in a future version.  Click here if you want to give Google Labs feedback and suggest features that would be useful to you.

Nervous System zoomed in on the Brain with Labels On

Image of the Obicularis Oculi muscle selected

Beside viewing the human body in the manner described above, one can selectively adjust the relative transparency of each layer at the same time as well.  To select this second option, click on the oval icon having three vertical lines, just above the labels selection.  Once completed, this displays a sliding bar for each system.  The following image is a screen shot showing such an image.

Viewing Multiple System Layers

While preparing this blog post, my 1st grade son said, “We could see all this better if we cut open a person”. 

At first, I hestitated acknowledging the comment wondering if he had been exposed to too much violence on television.  But after a pause, he added, “The person could be dead already.” 

I asked, “Where could we get a dead person?”

He suggested, “A junk yard.” 

Having been to a funeral recently, I reminded him that most humans bury their dead, and that it would be against the law for one to dig up a grave.

I added though that Andreas Vesalius did just that in the 1500’s!

I imagine he might be proud of Google’s new Body Browser, as well as my son’s insight.



Author: Eric Kessler

I am a high school teacher in the Blue Valley School District who has taught a Bioscience Research course at the district's Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) since 2010. Previous to this teaching gig I was at Blue Valley North High School where I taught freshman Biology and Honors Biology, Field Biology, Zoology, and AP Biology for the past 18 years.