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Warren Anatomical Museum (WAM)

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The Warren Anatomical Museum originated from John Collins Warren's (1778-1856) donation of his personal teaching and research collection. Like many of his medical peers, Warren collected anatomical and pathological preparations to aid his practice and study. His collecting began as early as 1799, and he gradually expanded his collection to help teach his medical students. When Warren resigned his Harvard professorship in 1847, he presented most of his collection to the University with an endowment of $5,000 to support its preservation.

John Collins Warren, 2007
Harvard Medical Library,
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
Born in Boston on August 1, 1778. John Collins Warren was the son of John Warren, a surgeon and one of the founders of Harvard Medical School. After graduating valedictorian from Harvard College in 1797, John Collins Warren began studying medicine under his father, and then in Europe from 1799-1802. From 1809-1847, Warren taught Anatomy and Surgery at Harvard Medical School, first as an adjunct professor, and then consecutively as a full professor, professor emeritus, and dean. He was a founder of the New England Journal of Medicine and was a surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he performed the first public demonstration of ether anesthesia in 1846. He was active in the Temperance Movement, serving as President of the Massachusetts Temperance Society from 1827-1856, and contributing $10,000 to the cause in his will. An active member in local agricultural and natural history organizations, Warren contributed many paleontological and geological specimens to Harvard in addition to his anatomy collection. He died in Boston, May 4, 1856.

The Warren Museum became one of this country's leading medical museums and physicians such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., first Warren curator J. B. S. Jackson, Henry Jacob Bigelow, J. Collins Warren and others contributed anatomical specimens and models, instrumentation and medical memorabilia to its holdings. During the 19th and early 20th century, the Museum's collection of both normal and pathological specimens served as an important resource for the study and teaching of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Warren Anatomical Museum, circa 1906
Warren Anatomical Museum
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
When the the Museum opened for study in 1847, it was housed in a large room on North Grove Street in Boston. It was here, in 1861, that the collection was first opened to the public.In 1883, the Museum moved with the Medical School to Boylston Street, and again in 1906, to the Longwood campus, where it occupied the upper floors of Gordon Hall until 1998. In 2000, the Countway Library's Center for the History of Medicine took over curatorial responsibility for the Museum and created exhibit space for part of the collection on the Library's fifth floor.

The Museum's present collection contains approximately 15,000 artifacts and cases including: anatomical and pathological preparations; various wax, paper mache, and dry preparation anatomical models; photographs, prints, paintings, and drawings; medical instruments and machines; and other medical memorabilia. Along with the well-known skull of Phineas Gage, the Museum holds many other rare and interesting items. Among these are the Phrenological Collection of Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, the Boston Society for Medical Improvement collection, and a W. T. G. Morton-type ether inhaler.

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