A trip down memory lane

Published on 14 July 2023

The University’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification has a long and rich history, dating back to 1889. Join us as we look back on how teaching Anatomy has changed over the years.

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“Anatomy initially supported courses such as Medicine. The department was a small, hastily converted facility in the University’s Carnelley building before moving to the first Medical School building in 1904,” said Vivienne McGuire MBE, Centre Manager.

“Despite its humble beginnings, Anatomy quickly established itself as a core discipline, and the University became a leading centre for anatomical research.”

The Anatomy department moved into the newly built Medical Sciences Institute (MSI)in the 1970s, where it has remained ever since.

The Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, as we know it today, was formed in 2008 however, it has since grown and expanded.

“A successful £1 million fundraising campaign in 2014 created a much larger mortuary on campus, enabling the University to become the first to use revolutionary Thiel embalmed cadavers, which give students invaluable learning opportunities,” Vivienne continued. “We are very grateful to those who donate their remains to the University. Their selfless gift so that others may learn is never taken for granted."

Anatomy has come a long way from a quickly converted workshop. “Today we are known as a place of innovation,” said Vivienne. “Here, we teach the next generation of medical experts, and our researchers are at the forefront in their fields of human anatomy, forensic science, and medical imaging.”

Black an white photo of Professor David Dow from 1912-1958

Professor David Dow, Cox Chair of Anatomy 1925–1958, was a memorable lecturer known for making even the most complex topics interesting. One of his most popular lectures was on the body snatchers, Burke and Hare, and he once invited a contortionist to demonstrate to his class.

Black and white photo of the class of anatomy session 1978-1979

Department of Anatomy, 1978-79. At this time, Professor David Dick headed the department. Under his guidance, the department grew substantially, and specialised research groups were established. Nowadays, the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification is home to a community of teachers and researchers working in the fields of anatomical sciences, forensic anthropology, biomedical engineering, craniofacial identification, medical research, surgical skills development, medical and forensic art, and augmented reality medical and anatomical educational products.

Students in lab coats looking at a brain

A dissection class in the 1980s. Up to 100 people each year donate their bodies to help to train aspiring doctors, scientists, dentists and surgeons. These 'silent teachers' are vitally important, with over 1,000 students benefitting each year from full-body dissection.

Old photo of classroom teacher and students showing xray and books

Anatomy students learning from textbooks, x-rays, anatomical models and specimens in the 1980s. Students still use these resources today however, technological advances have enabled more realistic and interactive learning experiences.

Story category The Bridge Magazine