Surgeons' Hall Museums

The Wohl Pathology Museums at Surgeons' Hall Museums
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Surgeons’ Hall Museums (SHM), part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, houses one of the largest and most historic collections of artefacts charting the history and development of surgery. The collections include surgical instruments and artworks and one of the largest collections of anatomical specimens in the world. These specimens are displayed in the Wohl Pathology Museum, which is located within the iconic building designed by William Playfair in 1832.

All of the exhibits which have made SHM world-famous will be back on display: including a pocket book made from the skin of the infamous murderer, William Burke; and exhibits relating to Dr Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s teacher and main inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, the highlight of which is a letter from the author crediting his mentor as such.

The reopened SHM, whose transformation has been supported by a £2.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will also feature even more interactive and display exhibits, which will help visitors from all around the world discover the stories and breakthroughs that have shaped modern surgical practice.

Venue Type:

Museum, Heritage site

Opening hours

7 days a week 10am-5pm.

Admission charges

£6.50 Adults. £4 Concessions.


  • International Council of Museums
  • Museums Association

Additional info

Toilets - There are toilets in the basement. All toilets are fully accessible.

Restaurants and cafés - The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is home to Café 1505 and the Ten Hill Place Hotel & Wine Bar.

Baby Changing - Baby changing facilities are in the basement floor.

The museums contain objects in 9 main categories: anatomical and pathological specimens; casts and models; histological preparations; furniture; paintings and other works of art; photographic prints and slides; voice, video and other recordings; surgical and other instruments; and miscellaneous items.

Collection details

Medicine, Weapons and War

Key artists and exhibits

  • Charles Bell
  • Joseph Lister
  • Robert Liston
  • Robert Knox
  • Burke and Hare
  • James Young Simpson
  • William Playfair
  • William Henry Playfair
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Café Scientifique

Café Scientifique - Surprising Targets for Harmful Air Pollution Particles

  • 8 May 2017 7-9pm

It is well known that inhaling dust particles causes disease. Ever since the early 19th century it has been recognised that inhaling large amounts of coalmine dust causes lung disease in miners. In the mid 20th Century London smogs claimed thousands of lives and the soot particles were suspected as being part of the problem, along with pollutant gases such a sulphur dioxide present in the pollution cloud. In the late 20th century it began to emerge that, during pollution episodes, deaths were not only arising in people with lung disease but also in people with heart disease and that the particles were the most harmful component of the ambient air pollution cloud. This lead to research demonstrating that small particles possess enhanced harmfulness and also that small particles might be driving adverse effects by escaping from the lungs to accumulate at other sites in the body. Small particles, also called nanoparticles, are small enough to migrate to the brain and to the walls of the blood vessels, triggering concern that air pollution may increase degenerative brain disease and coronary artery disease, both major killers in the general population. We will discuss this history and the latest data on the harmful effects of small particles at sites other than the lungs and alternative explanations for the mechanism of harm.

What is Café Scientifique?

Café Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to have a conversation about the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings have taken place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context.

The first Cafes Scientifique in the UK were held in Leeds in 1998. From there, cafes gradually spread across the country. Currently, some seventy or so cafes meet regularly to hear scientists or writers on science talk about their work and discuss it with diverse audiences.

Cafe Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, not a shop window for science. We are committed to promoting public engagement with science and to making science accountable.

Suitable for

  • 18+


This wont hurt a bit

This Won't Hurt A Bit

  • 19 — 20 May 2017 6:30-9pm

This Won’t Hurt A Bit! explores the genius of the Scottish Obstetrician who delivered us from suffering with his pioneering and unorthodox experiments with Chloroform.

This is a promenade performance and will require periods of standing. If you require a seat, or are unsure of what to expect please get in contact with our Museums Events Officer, Jordanna,

Suitable for

  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+


Cost: £9 - Adults. £7 - Concessions


Surgeons' Hall Museums
Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
18 Nicolson Street


Museum Homepage




0131 527 1711

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.