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A Journal on Forensic Medicine
Minerva Medicolegale 2007 September;127(3):225-30
Capturing the face: studying human faces in times
Department of Anatomy, Pharmacology and Forensic Medicine University of Turin, Turin, Italy
Beauty, emotions, sensations, social aspects and interpretations and the many scientific series performed in the different centuries and with different angulations are only a minimal part of all the polymorphism of the human face. Our faces have always been of interest to us and to record them throughout history we have relied on verbal descriptions, paintings, death masks and photography. The face has long been studied and discussed by philosophers, artists and finally, scientists. Man has always tried to capture its physical proportions and expressions, and more recently to discuss its social and biological importance. The two main methods used to study faces have been, and still are, anthroposcopy and anthropometry. Photographs and two-dimensional radiographic films are the methods most widely used to document facial morphology but recently in vivo three-dimensional systems have been introduced and represent an innovative, different approach for acquisition of quantitative external surface data. These applications are increasingly extensive, and the methods more and more sophisticated. Three-dimensional scanners and computer graphics allow rapid noninvasive capture of objective data sets, and once the numbers are in, faces can be compared over time and if appropriate, reconstructed to the original or a different specification. Here we briefly illustrate the developing scene in the field, with particular reference to medical applications.