Exploring the complex history of anatomical study, this exhibition looks at Edinburgh’s key role as an international centre for medical learning and the relationship between science and crime that dominated the early 19th century.

500 years of medical exploration will be on display, including intriguing objects such as the Arthur’s Seat miniature coffins (pictured above), ground-breaking casts of body parts and a full-body anatomical model by the 19th-century French anatomist and naturalist, Louis Auzoux. Other displays include sketches by Leonardo da Vinci that demonstrate the desire to understand the human body as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries.

Discover the role anatomy played during the Enlightenment – a period of scientific, political and philosophical debate that dominated European society in the late-17th to early-19th centuries – and explore how anatomical study became intertwined with poverty and crime. When Edinburgh was at its height of anatomical study in the 18th century, the need for bodies to dissect massively outstripped supply – this led to criminal activities such as grave-robbing becoming common practice. The exhibition also explores the Burke and Hare murders committed by William Burke and Margaret Hare, who killed 16 people from the impoverished Edinburgh area if West Port and sold their bodies for dissection.

The exhibition goes on to investigate how attitudes and practices around anatomical practices changed following these tragic events, bringing the story of anatomy right up to the present day.


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