Surgeons' Hall Pathology Museum
Housed in the upper floor of the bulding which William Playfair designed, the Pathology Museum has one of the largest collections of pathological anatomy in the United Kingdom and provides valuable material for the study of human disease. Visitors have access to the lower floor during opening hours. Access to the upper gallery of the Pathology Museum is restricted to guided tours and educational groups, which are availablie by appointment only. Please see our guided tour and education sections for more information.
Surgeons' Hall Museum
History of Surgery (lower gallery)
The History of Surgery explores Edinburgh's special contribution to surgical practice in modern times. This gallery traces the key dates in Scotland’s surgical advances and focuses on key figures such as Syme and pre-anaesthesia surgery, Simpson and the discovery of chloroform as an anaesthetic; and Lister and the breakthrough discovery of antiseptic.
The Dental Collection is one of the finest in the UK and demonstrates the development of dentistry from its earliest days to modern times. It includes many rare artefacts from world cultures and has especially important domestic instruments and items.
The core of the collection was bequested to the College by John Menzies Campbell, a Glasgow dentist and significant dental historian. The collection includes dental instruments, artefacts, prints, paintings, engravings and models.
Download information about the history of dentistry in Edinburgh below.
The Real Sherlock Holmes
Letters, artworks, objects and film draw together the many connections between Edinburgh, medicine and the work of Arthur Conan Doyle. The exhibition focuses especially on Conan Doyle's relationship to Joseph Bell who later became President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and whose analytical mind and keen powers of observation led Conan Doyle to write 'It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes'.
Read The Scotsman's review of the exhibition (opens in a new browser window).
History of Surgery (upper gallery)
The Upper Gallery of The History of Surgery Museum was updated in 2010 with the 'Skin Deep' and Sight for Scotland' exhibitions. The gallery also contains an area where visitors can test their own skill at key-hole surgery with the use of a laparoscopic training unit.
Sight for Scotland: 100 years of Ophthalmology
In the late 1700s, a few surgeons began to take a special interest in eye disorders; soldiers and sailors returning from wars against France brought a flood of infections, which often lead to blindness and impaired sight. During the mid 1700 hundreds, a well documented figure, John ‘Chevalier’ Taylor appeared throughout Europe in a coach painted with images of eyes. Taylor, often considered the quintessential travelling quack, later confessed to blinding hundreds of patients, and has even been linked to the blinding of Handel and Bach. Quackery aside, this exhibition will also look at the truly innovative figures involved in the groundbreaking work of ophthalmology, celebrating 100 years of the Scottish Ophthalmology Club, and looking at how the lack of ophthalmological treatment in developing countries contributes to ongoing poverty.
Skin Deep: The Restoration of Form and Function
Plastic surgery has been one of the key developments in surgery in the twentieth century. The word "plastic" derives from the Greek plastikos meaning to mould or to shape; this exhibition explores the effects of cosmetic changes to the face. From at least 800 BC surgeons have attempted to construct or alter the face to make people acceptable in society. The influence of war and punishment has had a profound effect on surgical improvements and they are charted in this exhibition. In the 21st century people choose to undergo radical surgery to change their appearance. We attempt to discover the reasons behind this and what effect surgery on congenital defects can have on the psychology of the patient. The exhibition will display objects which have never before been on public display at the Museum, including human pathology and bone specimens, an extremely rare Greco-Roman eye votive, a bound South American skull and new art works by Edinburgh artist Joyce Gunn Cairns.
We have been extremely fortunate to have the support of 3 facial charities and we thank them for the part they have all played in the Skin Deep Exhibition
Changing Faces and their facial equality campaign feature on the display boards of the 'psychology' section of Skin Deep, and our on-display leaflets were provided by Susan Campbell Duncan
Mark Gilbert's art exhibtion for Saving Faces has been very kindly transferred into a power point presentation for our touch screens by Professor Iain Hutchison and Dr Louise Lemoine of. Saving Faces.
Dr Kami Parsa and Surgical Friends have helped by providing video footage of their work for us to show on our video screens.
For more information on living with facial deformities and how you can help, please visit their websites.
Find out about current and upcoming exhibitions.
Find out about past exhibitions at the museum.
Find out about key objects featured at the museum.
View images of the museum, exhibitons and objects.