'Curious anatomys': an extraordinary story of dissection and discovery

27 Apr 2012 – 31 Dec 2012

Regular hours

10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00
10:00 – 17:00

Cost of entry


Royal College of Physicians Museum

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Tube: Great Portland Street

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Human remains and detailed illustrations make up this rich and engaging exhibition, which showcase rare items from the Royal College of Physician's collections, on show together for the first time in their history. The display charts the history of public dissections across Europe and the life of John Finch, known as a 'lynx with a knife'.

The centerpiece of the display is a rare set of six 'visually spectacular' anatomy tables. They display human veins, nerves and arteries dissected at the University of Padua's famous anatomy theatre in the 17th century, skillfully arranged on to wooden panels.

The pioneering work of the anatomists at Padua has undoubtedly inspired generations of physicians, historians and artists a like. Their broad reaching influence can be seen in the works of contemporary artists such as Antony Gormley and controversial anatomist, Gunter Von Hagens.

Padua's famous anatomy theatre was built in 1595 and is the oldest in Europe. Students from across the continent watched dissections in the steeply tiered theatre. Bodies came from executed criminals and were also supplied by Padua's hospitals. Opening up bodies was a ritual act in the anatomy theatres of early modern Europe. The performance took place within a carefully monitored philosophical, legal and religious framework.

The exhibition is supported by loans from the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, The Gordon Museum of Pathology, and Christ's College, Cambridge. These include dissection tools, preparations made by surgeon Sir Astley Paston Cooper and exquisite wax models created by anatomical modeller Joseph Towne.

Watch the story behind the exhibition here: http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/museum-and-garden/whats/curious-anatomys/story-behind-curious-anatomys

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is the oldest medical college in England. Its collections relate to the history of the medical college, and to the physician's profession.

Collections range from portraits, providing a pictorial and sculptural record of presidents, fellows and other physicians associated with the RCP, from its foundation in 1518 to the present, the fascinating Symons collection of medical instruments, and the Hoffbrand collection of apothecary jars.


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