The skull, life cast, and tamping iron of Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage (1823-1860) is one of neurology’s most famous cases. Gage sustained a traumatic brain injury in 1848 when a 3’ 7” inch iron rod fired through his head. The accident cost Gage an eye and altered his personality, but he survived. Gage’s physician, John Harlow (1819-1907), donated the skull and tamping iron to the Warren Anatomical Museum in 1868. Read more about Gage's case.

The Boston Phrenological Society Collection

The Boston Phrenological Society began in 1832 to celebrate the life and work of Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776–1832). Starting with Spurzheim's lecture collection, the Society developed a cabinet of phrenological castings. They published an 1835 Catalogue of Phrenological Specimens. John Collins Warren purchased the Society’s cabinet in 1849 and added it to his eponymous museum. Approximately 250 of the castings remain in the Warren Museum’s collection.

The Boston Society for Medical Improvement

The Boston Society for Medical Improvement had an expansive pathological cabinet. The first curator of the Warren Museum, J. B. S. Jackson (1806-1879), was the Society’s curator as well. In 1847, Jackson published A Descriptive Catalogue of the Anatomical Museum of the Boston Society for Medical Improvement., which details the first 954 specimens in the cabinet. The Society’s collection grew to around 1200 items. Circa 1870, Jackson facilitated the transfer of the cabinet to the Warren Museum. Harvard Medical School formally accepted the cabinet in 1889.

Dickinson-Belskie Obstetrical Model Collection

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History donated the Dickinson-Belskie collection in 2007. Obstetrician Robert Latou Dickinson (1861-1950) and sculptor Abram Belskie (1907-1988) created the models to teach birth anatomy to health care professionals and the public. The Cleveland Health Museum acquired the models from Dickinson circa 1950. The Health Museum was later absorbed into the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The collection contains over 200 models. It includes Dickinson’s models of the average American man and woman, “Norma and Normann.” The Center for the History of Medicine also has Robert Latou Dickinson papers.

Pelvis and Proximal Femurs of Charles Lowell

The Warren Anatomical Museum has a mounted hip preparation of Charles Lowell (d.1858). Lowell dislocated his hip in a horse-riding accident in 1821. Dissatisfied with his physicians' care, Lowell entered into a well-publicized malpractice case. Lowell took issue with the medical evidence. He requested an examination of his hip joint after his death. Harvard physicians Henry Oliver and Jonathan Mason Warren (1811-1867) conducted the autopsy. Warren’s son, John Collins Warren (1842-1927) later donated the hip preparation to the museum. More can be found in the exhibit: Charles Lowell’s Hip: An Early Case of (alleged) Medical Malpractice.

For additional information, contact the Warren Anatomical Museum.