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This month’s object is a dissection showing the blood vessels rising from the heart and the nerves from the spinal column. The red part of the specimen is the main artery leaving the heart and the major arteries branching from it. The nerves that branch off from the spine are painted white. This particular object is part of the Struthers collection.
John Struthers retired as Professor of Anatomy at Aberdeen University in 1889 and returned to Edinburgh, where he had studied medicine and worked as a surgeon and teacher. Struthers became President of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 1895-1897 and during this time he donated his private anatomy collection to the College. Specimens such as this one were prepared by Struthers by injecting coloured wax into blood vessels to highlight their path. The specimens were then varnished to prevent decay.
This month’s object comes from the Dental Collection at Surgeons’ Hall Museums. These forceps are for usage when extracting maxillary molars. On this particular object, the rivet of the box joint is covered on the front and the back with a strip of decorated brass and the handles are richly ornamented. These forceps were made by a blacksmith.
Lung with Tuberculosis
Our monthly object for October is this portion of lung showing tuberculosis. This particular specimen comes from a person who had bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis for 15 years. On the specimen you can see that it has been deeply pigmented by carbon. This object is part of Knox collection.
This scapula, or shoulder blade, has been treated to remove the calcium, thereby rendering it partly translucent. The spine of the scapula is present across the top of the specimen and the glenoid cavity which articulates with the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) can be seen.
This specimen comes from a ship’s captain who was bitten by a shark when sailing the Persian Gulf. The bite severely lacerated part of his foot and ankle, but he survived the attack escaping only with some loss of movement due to ligament damage and a lot of scarring. The wound healed and there was little trouble for over thirty years at sea, until a growth appeared on the heel. A biopsy revealed it was a squamous carcinoma, a skin cancer, and the leg was amputated.
Heart with stenosis
This specimen shows a section cut through the heart to show the diseased tricuspid, mitral and aortic valves. In valve disease the flaps of the valves become scarred and dysfunctional and this leads to restriction of the blood flow or blood leaking backwards in the heart.
Dissection of a Malefactor
Painted in 1709 by Dutch artist Adriaen van der Groes, this scene shows a body being dissected. The central figure is probably Scottish physician Archibald Pitcairne and the other characters are likely to be portraits of other medical men of the time. There are a variety of symbolic features in the painting that suggest it is also a ‘mememto mori’, a reminder of death, such as the hour glass resting on the body and death standing on the right hand pillar.
This painting can be seen in one of the first cases when entering the History of Surgery Museum.
This month’s object is a shoemaker’s knife, used as evidence in the trial of James Gow, and the heart and skin of his wife, the murder victim.
On the night of the 16th July, 1831, Gow stabbed the woman once in the chest. It was a fatal wound which pierced the heart at the base of the left ventricle and can clearly be seen on both specimens. She went to hospital but died nine days later and on dissection, four pounds of blood were found in her chest cavity and her left lung had collapsed.
James Gow was executed by hanging on 2nd December. His body was then delivered to Alexander Munro (tertius) who dissected it at the Edinburgh Medical School.
Corrosion cast of a kidney
The blood vessels of a normal left kidney are demonstrated in this technique called corrosion-casting. Coloured resin, in a liquid state, is injected into the vessels under pressure. After the plastic hardens the tissue is removed by immersion in hydrochloric acid. Different coloured resin has been used to distinguish veins (red), arteries (blue) and the renal pelvis (yellow). The fluid is water and acts simply as cushioning.
This month's object is one of the oldest specimens in the collection, a skeleton dissected and prepared by Alexander Monro Primus (1697-1767). It was presented by him to the College in 1718, and is on display in our Museums.