University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Collections
University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Collections

New App Lets You Virtually Visit a Famous Anatomy Museum

University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Collections
University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Collections

For some people, the height of smartphone enjoyment involves a rousing game of Bejeweled Blitz. For others, it’s zooming in on famous skulls. If you're in the latter category, a new app from the University of Edinburgh Anatomical Museum is definitely worth a look.

Medicine might not be the first thing you think when you think of Edinburgh, but it should be: The University of Edinburgh Medical School is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the English-speaking world. For centuries, wannabe doctors and surgeons flocked there in part because of the school's focus on hands-on learning, which meant learning from corpses instead of from textbooks. While that might not sound so revolutionary now, it was pretty notable in the 18th century. Many of the first doctors employed in what's now known as the United States cut up their first cadaver in the anatomy theaters of Edinburgh. (Rumor has it the school once went through so many bodies that bringing your own got you a discount on tuition.)

The University of Edinburgh Anatomical Museum preserves thousands of treasures from that storied—if blood-spattered—history, but it's only open to the public one day a month. As of today, you can skip the plane fare and partake of a new app that offers a 360-degree tour of the museum's hallowed halls, including its archives, lecture theater, morgue, art-filled foyer flanked by elephant skeletons, "skull room," and more. Highlights include the artists flat, a space perched above the anatomy laboratories and once used by artists, set up to look as it might have in the 1880s (complete with a partially disassembled human leg). The skull room itself features more than 1600 skulls, which were once part of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society’s museum. (That was before we realized phrenology—the reading of head bumps for clues to personality, intelligence, and morals—was about as useful as advanced palmistry.)

You can take a leisurely guided tour, or go at your own pace, scrolling around and clicking on items—Charles Darwin’s attendance cards, the skeleton of famous bodysnatcher/murderer William Burke, a preserved small intestine. By the end, you’ll have learned about the collecting habits of 19th century anatomists, the making of life and death masks, political intrigues from the school’s past ventilation systems in morgues, and far more.

According to the app's narration, there's talk of moving the Anatomy Museum to a new space. This experience preserves its slightly antiquated wonder—thanks to the best of 21st century technology. You can download it for free on iTunes for iOs or Google Play for Android, and check out some screenshots below.

Phrenological tools from the 19th century. The Anatomical Museum includes the collection of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society.

The skeleton of notorious bodysnatcher William Burke.

All images courtesy of University of Edinburgh's Anatomical Collections.

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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