Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds 2 & The Brain has made its debut at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute and is one of many points of interest for visitors interested in exploring Greater Philadelphia’s many exhibits and museums devoted to medical science, anatomy and medical history.
The second-largest medical research and education center in the U.S., the Philadelphia region is home to many medical, anatomical and scientific sites, from the nation’s first hospital and the home of the “Father of American Surgery” to museums devoted to medical marvels and the history of pharmacy.
Among the exhibits and museums about anatomy and medical science are:
● Body Worlds 2 & The Brain, the sequel to the wildly popular Body Worlds exhibition, on view at The Franklin Institute through February 21. Presenting a collection of real human specimens plasticized to reveal the body’s inner workings, the exhibit places a special emphasis on the least-understood organ and the latest findings in neuroscience. Also worth seeing are permanent exhibits of anatomical interest: the Giant Heart, replete with giant walk-through heart, a room-size EKG machine and Bloodmobile Video Theater; and Sports Challenge, a 5,500-square-foot stadium with interactive and virtual reality athletic games that illustrate the role of science in sports. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, fi.edu;
● The Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has a vast and unusual collection of human medical marvels and mysteries, including a plaster cast of conjoined twins Chang and Eng, the preserved body of the “Soap Lady” and some 2,000 objects removed from people’s throats. On view this season, in addition to the permanent collection, is The Devouring Element, a special exhibition that focuses on the impact of lead on human health. 19 S. 22nd Street, (215) 563-3737, muttermuseum.org;
● The Shoe Museum, housed at Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine, which displays shoes of historic significance from around the world, as well as those that belonged to famous people such as Joe Frazier, Ella Fitzgerald and Joan Rivers. The museum also features the collection of Dr. H. Augustus Wilson, a 19th-century Philadelphia orthopedist, on loan from the Mutter Museum. Museum tours are free, but visitors must call in advance to schedule. 8th & Race Streets, (215) 625-5243, podiatry.temple.edu/pages/about/shoe_museum/shoe_museum.html; and
● The Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Weaver III Historical Dental Museum. At this museum of dental history, the development of the Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry is celebrated with a mock Victorian dental office, 18th-century dentures carved from bone, a bucket of teeth, photographs, student records and cases of dental instruments, including a set believed to have been made by Paul Revere. 3223 N. Broad Street, (215) 707-2800
Sites in Greater Philadelphia of scientific and medical-history interest include:
● The United States’ first hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital. The hospital was founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond to attend to the “sick-poor and insane of Philadelphia.” Today, the teaching and research institution is recognized by US News and World Report as one of the nation’s best in orthopedics, neurology and neurosurgery. The original Pine Building is open to the public and hospital tours, including views of original artworks by Benjamin West, Thomas Eakins and Thomas Sully, are available. 800 Spruce Street, (215) 829-3370, pennhealth.com/pahosp;
● The painting The Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins’ ode to medicine, depicting Dr. Samuel D. Gross attending to a patient in the surgical amphitheater at Jefferson Medical College in 1875. The painting is a Philadelphia treasure and a coveted masterpiece of 19th-century American art. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts now jointly own the original, which is currently not on view, but a reproduction hangs at Thomas Jefferson University’s Eakins Gallery. Jefferson Alumni Hall, 1020 Locust Street, jefferson.edu/eakins;
● The Physick House, named for its most famous resident and the “Father of American Surgery,” Dr. Philip Syng Physick. The Physick House is an 18th-century townhouse in Society Hill that epitomizes the Federal style of architecture and furnishings. Physick’s medical accomplishments included caring for the sick during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793; pioneering the use of the stomach pump and cataract surgery; and tending to celebrity patients such as Dolly Madison, Benjamin Rush and Chief Justice John Marshall. 321 S. 4th Street, (215) 925-7866, philalandmarks.org/phys.aspx; and
● Philadelphia is home to the USA’s first college of pharmacy, and the Marvin Samson Center for the History of Pharmacy at the University of Sciences is a 1,000-square-foot museum that documents the city’s pharmaceutical history. Changing temporary exhibitions draw from a vast collection of more than 10,000 pharmaceutical and medical objects that date back more than 400 years. Visitors can examine mortars and pestles, apothecary jars, nursing equipment, teaching materials and other illuminating items. 600 S. 43rd Street, (215) 596-8721, usip.edu/museum.
Visitors who would like to explore the region’s medical museums and exhibits can plan their visit and book their stay at gophila.com.
For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit gophila.com or uwishunu.com, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to Hear Philly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Alternatively, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.