The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is home to Surgeons’ Hall Museums, which is primarily housed in the college’s beautiful early 19th century William Playfair building.
The entire recognised collection of national significance forms one of the finest and most historic pathology collections in the UK. Surgeons’ Hall Museums is divided into the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum and the Dental Collection. Collectively they form Scotland’s largest medical museum which has been open to the public since 1832.
Of particular interest in the History of Surgery Museum is the exhibit on Edinburgh’s criminal duo Burke and Hare. Burke and Hare became infamous when instead of simply digging up corpses to sell to Robert Knox, conservator at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, they began killing, to manufacture their own corpses. They sold over 15 of these corpses to the college before they were discovered. After turning King’s evidence, Hare was released, but Burke was hung, dissected, and a book was bound from his skin. Burke’s death mask and the book bound from his skin can all be found at the History of Surgery Museum.