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Silent Teachers: The Story of Modern Body Donation

13 Sep 2022


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Black anatomical line drawing of muscles on a human form with hand outstretched, labelled with letters and Latin text.

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Wellcome Collection.

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. Wellcome Collection.

Inspired by our exhibition, Anatomy: A Matter of Death and Life, our expert panel discussed the modern approach to anatomical study and body donation in this online event. 

In the 18th century, Edinburgh was Britain’s leading centre for medical teaching. As anatomists sought to understand the human body, the demand for bodies to dissect and study vastly outstripped legitimate supply. As a result, grave robbing became common practice.

Since then legislation has ensured bodies used today are acquired, with proper consent, through donation.

From their perspectives as exhibition curator, professor, medical student and living donor, our expert panel discuss the modern approach to body donation and contrast the ethics, practices and beliefs of today with those from two centuries ago.

Our speakers are:

  • Sophie Goggins, Senior Curator of Biomedical Science at National Museums Scotland and co-curator of Anatomy: A Matter of Death and Life.
  • Tom Gillingwater, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh. Tom holds overall responsibility for the anatomical teaching and research activities at the University, including their body donation programme.
  • Joyce Faulkner, widow of a donor and a living donor herself.
  • Beth Fitt, 5th year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. Beth holds a degree in Anatomy.

This event included a live Q&A chaired by Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Collections at National Museums Scotland.

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