Location

Edinburgh University Anatomy Museum
Department of Anatomy, University Medical School
Teviot Place
Edinburgh
EH8 9AG

Tel: 0131 650 2997

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Edinburgh University Anatomy Museum

Edinburgh

Outlines the fascinating history of anatomy, anthropology and craniology. [The Anatomy Resource Centre is normally open only to medical students.]

Edinburgh’s Anatomy Museum, founded and developed by the Monro dynasty, flourished under Sir William Turner, Professor of Anatomy from 1867 to 1903, and thereafter Principal of the University till his death in 1917. Turner’s main interests were in comparative mammalian anatomy, anthropology and craniology, and Edinburgh was perhaps unusual in that these aspects of the study of evolution remained so firmly based in the Medical Faculty. The Anatomy Museum was the central feature of Rowand Anderson’s Medical School, designed as a three-storey top-lit galleried hall, with skeletons of whales and dolphins suspended from the ceiling and a wealth of historical and anatomical specimens on display. In the 1950s the hall was subdivided into three separate storeys and many of the non-human specimens were transferred to other institutions (some of the whales are now on view in the Royal Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street).

The imposing Museum Lobby still contains elephant skeletons and other exhibits from the original museum. A number of historical treasures survive in the Anatomy Museum, including the skull of George Buchanan, sixteenth century Scottish humanist and tutor to King James VI (founder of the University), and a collection of models of heads, and life and death masks made in the nineteenth century by the Edinburgh Phrenological Society. Of particular note is the skeleton of William Burke, the Irish murderer who was hanged and subjected to useful dissection by Professor Alexander Monro tertius in the University in 1829, for his part (with William Hare, who turned Queen’s evidence) in supplying freshly suffocated corpses for dissection by the extra-mural anatomist Dr Robert Knox (Monro, Knox’s professional rival, remained untainted by the scandal).

 

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