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Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields · interesting places nearby
Hunterian Museum information
The collection of anatomical specimens of pioneering surgeon John Hunter (1728–93) inspired this fascinating, slightly morbid, yet little-known museum. Among the more bizarre items on display are the skeleton of a 2.3m Irish giant named Charles Byrne, half of mathematician Charles Babbage’s brain (the other part is in the Science Museum) and, incongruously, Winston Churchill’s dentures.
The atmosphere is less gory than it once was but remains transfixing, with an impressive array of internal organs in a state of atrophy and disease, and explanations on trepanation and other medical curiosities. There's the bloated skull of a 25-year old victim of hydrocephalus and the model of a Chinese patient with a parasitic twin (1820). The art gallery contains Hunter's own paintings of 'exotics': Qing dynasty Chinese with queues (a plait worn at the back) and the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng, with, well, each other. Upstairs there’s a display on surgery techniques, which will impress and repel in equal measure. The museum was bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1941, putting paid to two thirds of its collection. There’s a free curator-led guided tour at 1pm on Wednesday. The excellent audioguide costs £3.50.