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Seventeenth century Dutch doctor's anatomy specimens go on show

BMJ 2004; 330 doi: (Published 30 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;330:8
  1. Tony Sheldon
  1. Utrecht

    Anatomical specimens collected by a groundbreaking seventeenth century Dutch doctor, Frederik Ruysch, are going on show in Amsterdam University's library.

    The exhibition includes the head of a 3 month old child and a display showing a month old fetus in the hand of a newborn baby. All were originally preserved by being pickled in alcohol, and the bottles were sealed with pig's bladders, resin, and pitch.

    The specimens have been borrowed from an exhibition in St Petersburg where they have been kept since Ruysch sold 2000 specimens to Peter the Great in 1717.

    Ruysch, a member of Britain's Royal Society, was an important and controversial figure in the early development of anatomy. His methods for presenting specimens, such as suspending them on a horse's hair or held in a human hand, were regarded more as art than science. But making tiny parts of anatomy visible meant that his work became an important guide to the early discovery of the human body.

    Only Believe Your Own Eyes is at Amsterdam University Library exhibition hall, Singel 425, Amsterdam, until 21 January. Details are at

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