Step Twelve: a museum that keeps foetuses in jars

3 Mar


Word to the wise: don’t visit this museum if you’ve just eaten. Or if you’re particularly squeamish. Or if you don’t want to see animal AND human foetuses in jars.

I completely understand if you’re put off by the latter, but in some sick, twisted way I was actually quite intrigued by the chance to see organs in jars or put more eloquently, understand the purpose of science.

Surgeon and anatomist John Hunter did exactly this. He was fascinated by dissection and literally getting under the skin to find out how specimens function. So it’s only appropriate that his findings have been amassed into an extensive collection now called the Hunterian Museum.

From the start of the exhibition, you’re thrown in the deep end with a display of a human penis and various uteruses. Walking in a clockwise direction you’ll move onto other mammals, and peer into jars that hold, for example, the tongue of a young lion, scarily about the size of my hand, and the more precise, the dissected genitalia of a pregnant hedgehog.

You can’t miss the jars of human fetuses, arranged in order of development, which some people might find a bit distasteful, but all in the name of science.


It’s hard to escape the jars, but if you go round the back you’ll find less overwhelming but equally interesting exhibits, such as the skeleton of the “Irish giant”, the 7ft 7 Charles Byrne, or Winston Churchill’s dentures or a tonsil guillotine upstairs.

Even if you’re not interested in science, it’s worth a visit just to be amazed by the displays and like me, appreciate you’re not the one carrying out the dissections.


The details:

Location: Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn tube.

Opening times: Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm.

Free admission.

They have various events, which you can check out by clicking here.


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