Thursday, August 22, 2013

Anatomical Theatre, Uppsala University

An anatomical theatre was an institution used in teaching anatomy at early modern universities.

The theatre was usually a room of roughly amphitheatrical shape, in the centre of which would stand the table on which the dissections of human or animal bodies took place. Around this table were several circular, elliptic or octagonal tiers with railings, where students or other observers could stand and get a good view of the dissection almost from above and unencumbered by the spectators in the rows in front.  It was common to display skeletons at some place in the theatre; in Leiden, 17th-century depictions show that the living observers were actually accompanied in the rows by a large number of animal and human skeletons, some of which held banners with inscriptions such as Memento mori, or, freely translated, "Remember, you will die".

The anatomical theatre completed in 1663 by medical professor and amateur architect Olaus Rudbeck for the University of Uppsala is located in the idiosyncratic cupola which Rudbeck placed on top of the Gustavianum building, at the time the main building of the university. Rudbeck had spent time in Leiden, and both the anatomical theatre and the botanical garden he founded in Uppsala in 1655 were influenced by his experiences there.

Anatomical Theatre, Uppsala

Who can pass up a good dissection on the old slab?

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