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Morbid Curiosities: Medical Museums in Nineteenth-Century Britain Hardcover – 1 Jun 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (1 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199584583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199584581
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 2.3 x 14.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 900,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Samuel J M M Alberti is Director of Museums and Archives at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

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Review

absorbing (Christopher Lawrence, Times Literary Supplement)

a welcome and original addition to the scholarship on natural and medical history ... consistently engaging and accessible (Victoria Bates, Archives of Natural History)

an intellectually lively and valuable study that shifts attention away from bodies to those body parts which made up museum collections. (Keir Waddington, British Journal for the History of Science)

so this is a provocative, well researched, and elegantly written book. [Alberti] has reconstructed a persuasive history of the changing contexts of practices, meaning, and function of medical museums. This book nicely crosses disciplinary boundaries and will appeal to museologists, medical historians, anthropologists, art historians, and museum professionals. (Shauna Devine, Bulletin of the History of Medicine)

About the Author

Samuel J.M.M. Alberti is Director of Museums and Archives at the Royal College of Surgeons of England; previously he held a joint position at the University of Manchester, where he was a researcher at the Manchester Museum and a lecturer at the Centre for Museology. He is author of Nature and Culture: Objects, Disciplines and the Manchester Museum and editor of The Afterlives of Animals: A Museum Menagerie.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A historian of Victorain science on 10 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
"The body is a cultural phenomenon as well as a biological entity," Samuel Alberti observes in this compelling, exhaustively researched examination of medical museums.

We can see the power of Alberti's observation in the history of "RCSHC/P998," which anchors the book's introduction. The renowned 18th-century anatomist John Hunter created this object by removing post-mortem a cancer victim's ulcerated esophagus. He skillfully preserved it in a glass cylinder, and there it remains more than two centuries later. Hunter's goal -- here and in the countless other specimens accumulated in his medical museum -- was to preserve an example of disease as a point of reference for future study and research. Placed next to other esophagi, healthy and pathological, RCSHC/P998 serves as "one page in a three-dimensional encyclopaedia of disease".

Hunter also, of course, stripped away the individuality of the woman (perhaps a Mrs. P of London) whose death provided this particular piece of material data. A once-indivisible part of a suffering human being became a partible specimen identified with a catalog number. The implications of this are scientifically enormous and morally complex, as Alberti illustrates.

The story of RCSHC/P998 offers a fascinating microcosm of medical practice, particularly at the hands of Hunter's Victorian successors. Alberti shows how the material culture of the medical museum provides indispensible insight into an intricate series of relationships: between doctors and their patients, between medical professors and their often unruly students, between presumptuous London and Britain's striving provincial cities, between solemn anatomists and rambunctious showmen, between the shifting boundaries of medical disciplines.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jessica grove on 29 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a first rate book and I strongly recommend anyone interested in anatomy, pathology or indeed, morbid curiosities to read this. The scholarship and erudition is top drawer and I was completely captivated by it. I learnt so much and am indebted to the author for writing such a concise and wonderful book. Fab illustrations to boot, and I will never look at any eyeball in quite the same way, again.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars 27 July 2014
By GUSTAVO GOMEZ - Published on Amazon.com
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