January 27, 2023


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Grave robbing, homicide and trendy drugs: I visited the final word Edinburgh exhibition

Why do folks donate themselves to medical science, and the way did we get right here? I took a visit to the gorgeous metropolis of Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 25 and spent two days utterly immersed within the historical past of anatomy and dissection within the UK. I additionally learnt how worthwhile our bodies are – and the extent some used to go to acquire them.

A direct practice took me from London’s King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley, and I shortly bought acquainted with the town earlier than settling into Resort du Vin, which I later came upon was previously an asylum!

I used to be to be given a sneak preview of an upcoming exhibition on the Nationwide Museum of Scotland, entitled Anatomy: A Matter of Loss of life and Life.

Primarily excited as I had by no means visited Edinburgh – or any of Scotland – earlier than, I couldn’t assist but in addition really feel a little bit nervous as the topic of anatomy just isn’t one among my robust fits.

However, greeted by Kirsten Cowie and Alice Whyllie from the Communications workforce on the museum, I felt comfortable right away.

They launched me to the fabulous Physician Tacye Phillipson, Senior Curator of Fashionable Science, who oozed data and keenness for the advanced topic.

The exhibition, which is able to happen from July 2 to October 30, continues to be being fastidiously curated, however I used to be fortunate sufficient to get a sneak peak at among the artwork and artefacts that shall be featured, together with sketches by Leonardo da Vinci.

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The showcase takes us from as early because the 1500s to the current day, from the trade of grave robbing to modern-day dissection.

I’m a little bit embarrassed to say I’d by no means heard of Burke and Hare, the Scottish murderers who killed 16 folks over the course of a number of months in 1827, however their story was fascinating and performs a significant half within the historical past of anatomy.

Anatomist Robert Knox requested only a few questions when Burke and Hare introduced him with 17 useless our bodies for dissection – together with one pure loss of life – and provided the murderers a fairly penny for his or her contribution to science.

As a part of the exhibition, guests will see the preserved skeleton of Burke, arguably Edinburgh’s most infamous mass assassin.

However whereas folks might come for the grisly tales, they’re going to keep for the unbelievable perception into trendy drugs and the lengthy street it took to get right here.

Certainly, the exhibition just isn’t all guts and gore; far faraway from the ugly realities of Burke and Hare, guests will be taught why so many resolve to donate their our bodies to medical science within the current day.


The exhibit features a brief video the place guests will hear from a lady whose husband donated his physique to the College of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum to be dissected.

This shall be accompanied by a chat from Physician Tom Gillingwater, Professor of Anatomy, who defined that the exhibition goals to take away the taboos surrounding loss of life and our bodies, utilizing the historic context to make it “a secure setting to interact with loss of life”.

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My scientific awakening was punctuated by fabulous excursions within the metropolis centre, all of which I’d completely advocate.

One of many primary highlights was lunch at The Lookout, which offered great meals and an much more great view of the town.

I’d additionally haven’t any hesitation returning to the asylum-turned-hotel, which was in good proximity to the centre and intensely cosy.

All guests to the exhibition ought to guide themselves a spot on the Blood and Guts strolling tour, which was positively one other spotlight.

It’s not for the faint of coronary heart – I’ll warn you, there have been graphic descriptions of phlegm within the first 30 seconds of the tour – however I learnt lots and laughed lots too.

And though it wasn’t a part of the Anatomy: A Matter of Loss of life and Life exhibition, I believe these two excursions complemented one another particularly nicely.

Harry Potter followers have much more motive to go to this Edinburgh based mostly exhibition, as a result of this Scottish metropolis is the place JK Rowling penned her iconic books, and A number of characters within the novels have been arguably impressed by names in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

As for the exhibition itself, regardless of figuring out subsequent to nothing about anatomy, dissection, medical science and their bizarre histories, I got here away feeling not solely extra educated but in addition utterly fascinated by the topic.

I couldn’t cease speaking concerning the journey on my return to London – which took me unexpectedly as science has by no means been a ardour of mine – and I stay up for returning to see the exhibition in all its glory this summer season.

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Anatomy: A Matter of Loss of life and Life will happen on the Nationwide Museum of Scotland from July 2 to October 30, 2022.