Bodleian Library celebrates the University of Oxford's influence on medical science

By Sarah Jackson | 26 November 2013

The Bodleian Library explores the integral role the University of Oxford has had in shaping and developing medical science and research

Diagram by Christopher Wren, illustrating the Circle of Willis, from Willis, Cerebri Anatome, 1664.
Diagram by Christopher Wren, illustrating the Circle of Willis, from Willis, Cerebri Anatome (1664)© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
The University of Oxford has always seemed to produce more than its fair share of notable alumni: from politicians to writers, philosophers to saints, there is something about the city of the dreaming spires that attracts and creates greatness.

Until May 18 2014, an exhibition at the Bodleian Library will celebrate Oxford’s place in the history of medicine, from the start of the university in the medieval period right up to current medical research and clinical practice.

Featuring original manuscripts, prescriptions, laboratory notebooks, letters, rare books and artefacts, Great Medical Discoveries – 800 Years of Oxford Innovation traces the role Oxford scientists and medics have played in the discoveries and research that has made modern science possible.

Highlights include the medical records of Albert Alexander - the first patient to receive penicillin, in 1941 - a diagram by Christopher Wren illustrating the Circle of Willis (the arterial blood supply in the brain) dating from 1664 and a recently-developed prototype for self-adjustable glasses for myopic teenagers in the developing world.

Conrad Keating, the exhibition curator and Writer-In-Residence at The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, says the exhibition aims to "inspire in others an interest in the history, art and science" of medicine.

“By showcasing the remarkable contributions of the city’s Nobel Prize winners, scientific institutions, physicians and industrialists to advancing medical science and reducing human suffering, it will show that what has happened in Oxford is important for all time," he explains.

"To be truly pioneering requires tenacity and a spirit of curiosity.”

  • Open 9am-5pm Monday-Friday (9am-4.30pm Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the library on Twitter @bodleianlibs.

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Blood flow in the forearm, from Harvey, De Motu Cordis, 1628.
Blood flow in the forearm, from Harvey, De Motu Cordis (1628)© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Microscopy image of cells, from Hooke, Micrographia, 1665.
Microscopy image of cells, from Hooke, Micrographia (1665)© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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