International Museum of Surgical Science

The International Museum of Surgical Science, in Chicago (1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.), is a division of the International College of Surgeons.

The Museum’s four floors are filled with a large collection of artifacts, as well as paintings and sculptures that interpret the primitive and modern healing practices of Eastern and Western civilizations. The Museum’s collections and exhibits want to portray the mysteries and milestones that have shaped modern surgical science.

Medical artifacts, apparatus and instruments comprise the bulk of the material in the Museum’s collections (see, below, the "Related items"). Over 7,000 medical artifacts spanning centuries of worldwide medical history, from acupuncture to X-ray therapy, are represented in the collections. Among the exceptional artifacts are an Austrian amputation saw with reversible blade (c. 1500); original X-rays taken by radiology pioneer Emil Grubbé (c. 1910); the Lindbergh and Carrel's perfusion pump (1935), which enabled doctors to keep organs functioning outside the body, invented by the renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh and Nobel Prize-winning surgeon Alexis Carrel (1935); and a unique collection of heart valves donated by Dr. Juro Wada (c. 1960-80).

Fine art is featured in the collections through over 600 paintings, prints and sculptures, primarily portraits of individuals and historical depictions of specific procedures or events. Highlights include a portrait of Dr. Edward Jenner by John Russell (1790), and the original plaster cast of the death mask of Napoleon (1821). Significant artworks were commissioned by the Museum for the collections in 1950-53 including the Hall of Immortals (with scientists statues by Louis Linck and Edouard Chassaing) and Hall of Murals (with 12 mural panels by italian painter Gregorio Calvi di Bergolo illustrating the development of surgery throughout the ages).

The Museum also hosts a specialized Library with over 5,000 books and bound journals, including rare early medical books from the 16 th to 18 th centuries. The manuscript collection contains over 650 letters and papers from prominent figures in medical history, extending over four centuries, donated by Dr. Max Thorek in 1954. This collection includes documents from Edward Jenner, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Guy, Laennec, Langenback, Bergmann, Billroth, Malpighi, Rush, Wistar, and many others1.

In the Museum are a number of larger-than-life statues (see photos below) by French sculptor Louis Linck representing some leading persons in the History of medicine such as: Hippocrates, Andreas Vesalius, Ambroise Paré, Joseph Lister, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen and Marie Curie.


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- Matthew Shechmeister, "Surgery Museum Makes You Grateful for Any Modern Healthcare Whatsoever", Wired, November 2, 2009

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