Late Night at Hunterian

John Hunter was at the heart of London Society in the 18th Century. One floor of this museum houses a part of his extraordinary collection of specimens.

He collected preserved animals of all shapes and sizes, and human bones, skulls and complete skeletons that illustrate medical anomalies and diseases. Prized exhibits include the brain of Charles Babbage and the skeleton of the Irish giant. Another iconic piece is a chicken’s head implanted with a human tooth, it was such an important experiment that its image is still used as an emblem on the gowns of the RCS.

The second floor is a history of modern surgery, from Joseph Lister’s original antiseptic carbolic spray through to hands-on demonstrations of key-hole surgery.

At the top of marbled staircases, past black-tied diners (attending lavish galas in the function rooms downstairs) we were greeted at the museum door and offered wine and beer (at a price). With beverages and coats in hand, we hired a talking guide between us and set off to explore.

The museum is impressively equipped and the labelling is excellent, achieving a great balance between interesting artefacts and not-so-pleasant freakery.

The highlight of the evening was a quick course in different techniques of sewing up wounds. We probably didn’t take it quite as seriously as we should have done, but the artificial, leathery arms were just to inviting for silly jokes.

A fun night out.

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