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The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia is Filled with Anatomical Oddities.

My favorite pharmacy professor, Dr. Ralf Rahwan, taught a class on teratogenesis, carcinogenesis, and mutagenesis, which basically meant that we studied embryonic or birth defects, cancer, and gene mutations.

Dr. Rahwan told us that most of the people, who were featured in the circus sideshow acts from many years ago, were basically suffering from abnormalities that occurred in the womb. These people lacked the hormones that allowed them to grow. Alternately, they produced too much hormone and grew too large. Embryos did not split correctly, forming “Siamese twins.”

While Joe and I were in Philadelphia for the NCPA pharmacy convention, we visited a place that Dr. Rahwan would have loved to explore, the Mutter Museum, which is run by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Inside the Mutter Museum, we saw the tallest human skeleton (at well over 7 feet) on display, a plaster cast of Siamese twins, books made from human skins, and skulls showing damage from Civil War battles. It was a place of many gruesome “treasures” preserved forever in test tubes and formaldehyde.

While there is a great deal of the shocking among the display cases, the museum seriously and studiously traces the history of medicine and physicians’ trials to learn how the human body works. The museum specimens also show the ravages taken on the body due to warfare and cancer. Additionally, the museum celebrates our triumphs over many diseases, such as smallpox and leprosy, which no longer kill or deform generations of people.

While the museum is of great interest from a medical standpoint (I can only wonder how we will look back on “modern medicine” in a few decades), it is not for the weak stomached. Joe, who never liked looking at cadavers in anatomy class, kindly excused himself after a short walk inside the rows of skulls and bones and long preserved body parts.

Sadly, many of the abnormalities featured in this museum of atrocities could be prevented or altered today in our hospitals and pharmacies with pre-natal vitamins, antibiotics, or through a visit to a good plastic surgeon. I can imagine Dr. Rahwan marching along the aisles lecturing us on things he showed us only in slides, his voice rising in excitement at the marvels he was teaching us.

Visit The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Facebook Page HERE.

And visit their YouTube site for original online series, including Grey Matter and No Bones About It: YouTube

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