Anatomical theatre

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File:Anatomical theatre Leiden.jpg
The anatomical theatre at Leiden University in the early 17th century
File:Gustavianum in winter cupola only.jpg
Detail of Gustavianum in Uppsala, showing the cupola housing the anatomical theatre from 1663
File:Archiginnasio-teatroanatomico.jpg
Anatomical theatre in the Archiginnasio (University of Bologna) dated 1637

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.

The first anatomical theatre was built at the University of Padua in 1594 and is still preserved. Another very early one is the Theatrum Anatomicum of Leiden University, built in 1596. The latter was reconstructed in 1988. 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".

Another early example was built in the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio of the University of Bologna. The building dates from 1563 and the anatomical theatre from 1637.

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.

Thomas Jefferson built an anatomical theatre for the University of Virginia. It was completed in 1827 but demolished in 1938 to leave place for a new library building.


See also

External links

  • "Anatomical Theatre". CTSNet: The Cardiothoracic Surgery Network. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |accessmonthday= ignored (help) - A model of the anatomical theatre in Padua
  • "Anatomical Theatre". CTSNet: The Cardiothoracic Surgery Network. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |accessmonthday= ignored (help) - Engraving of the anatomical theatre at Leiden University.
  • "The history of Bologna University's Medical School over the centuries. A short review". Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina, Pannonica et Adriatica. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |accessmonthday= ignored (help) - with an image of the Renaissance anatomical theatre at the Bologna University
  • "Digging in the Dirt". Decweb. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |accessmonthday= ignored (help) - has a section on Jefferson's anatomical theatre
  • "Anatomical Theatre". Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |accessmonthday= ignored (help)

it:Anfiteatro di anatomia nl:Anatomisch theater sv:Anatomisk teater


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