The Boerhaave Museum

The Boerhaave Museum, in Leiden, The Netherlands, is a National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine. "As the national treasury of scientific endeavours, the museum shows some 400 years of advances in knowledge. Developments in the various sciences can be viewed in 24 rooms on two levels. The emphasis is on contributions from the Netherlands"1.

Dedicated to the memory of Herman Boerhaave, the famous Dutch physician and naturalist, called communis Europae praeceptor (the instructor of all of Europe), the Museum contains, among other things, the reconstruction the Theatrum Anatomicum of the University of Leiden, 1988 (orig. 1596): "The seventeenth-century tourist could not leave Leiden without having seen the University's Theatrum Anatomicum. This circular anatomy theatre had been set up in a chapel in the town since 1596, and in the winter was used for public dissections. For these anatomical demonstrations university lectures were suspended, and the town bells were rung, to indicate that the 'public anatomy' was beginning.However, even when there were no dissections the anatomy theatre was an interesting spectacle. On the balustrades stood the skeletons of human beings and animals, which not only taught the visitor something about comparative anatomy, but also taught him an edifying lesson about the fragility of life, since the human skeletons carry banners with such slogans as HOMO BULLA (man is a soap bubble) and MEMENTO MORI (remember you must die)"2.

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