Back in 2019 I wrote about anatomy and body donations at the University of Dundee. How the people who donate their bodies are known as “silent teachers“. It’s a subject of great personal interest because my father donated his body to Dundee.

So I was very interested in an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland entitled “Anatomy: A Matter of Death and Life”. It’s a fascinating story of how Edinburgh became a centre for the teaching of anatomy – and how the demand for bodies for dissection was met. Initially the bodies of executed criminals were used…. but as demand inexorably increased, graves were robbed and murder committed. A dark history, but one that was transformed as body donation became a more respectable and respected option for people seeking to leave a legacy to medical science and teaching.

I could write a lot more here about this thought-provoking exhibition but fortunately I was invited by my lecturers at the Glasgow University End of Life Studies Group to contribute to their blog. And so you can read my review here.

Thanks to the Group for inviting me to contribute and thanks to the Museum for putting this fascinating exhibition together. “Anatomy: A Matter of Death and Life” runs until 30 October 2022.

Anatomical theatre Leiden 1610
Anatomy Theatre at the University of Leiden, 1610

Michael Hannah, Broughty Ferry, September 2022

Silent Teachers – Anatomy in Edinburgh

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