The Museum of the History of Medicine in Paris is an opportunity to dive into the fascinating world of medicine, an unusual outing in the heart of Paris.

museum medicine

Instruments used in the care of Louis XIV

Inaugurated in the mid-1950s, the medical museum was initially accessible to professors and students of the Faculty of Medicine only. It finally opened its doors to the general public in 1994. Its collections, the oldest in Europe, were brought together by Dean Lafaye in the 18th century, then an important set of pieces was added which covers the different branches of surgical art until the end of the 19th century. . In particular, there are instruments used in the care of Louis XIV, as well as a few rare medical and surgeons’ kits or even physiology instruments. The collections of the museum (the oldest in Europe), are presented in a very beautiful room built between 1905 and 1907, in a wing of the building added by the architect Ginain to the « Collège de Chirurgie », one of the most beautiful buildings built in the 18th century by the architect Jacques Gondoin.

museum medicine

Surprisingly beautiful

It is medicine combined with the past that is shown here, the evolution of its techniques over the ages: its windows are thus full of rare pieces, often surprisingly beautiful, which evoke medicine for the visitor frightened by the sight of a needle. closer to sadistic torture than loving care. From the start of the stroll under the superb glass roof of the museum, through display cases mounted on fine woodwork, we quickly understand that in the Middle Ages and for many years, the priorities of medicine were not really the same as ‘today. The first displays show us collections of saws and instruments needed to perform amputations, the precision and efficiency of which have fortunately improved over time. Serious war wounds and advanced stage infections without known treatment often required the outright cutting of the limb to avoid intolerable suffering and contamination of the rest of the body. The beauty and hideousness of anatomy, the ravages of illness and the faces of death… Embark on our series on places of medical curiosities in Paris, for a journey strewn with as much unsuspected splendor as horrific visions. First stop: the Museum of the History of Medicine, a small establishment with a well-kept secret.

Close to sadistic torture

Above all in a hurry to admire the Chronicles of embalming exhibition, we discovered a magnificent place nestled since 1971 in the heart of the former Faculty of Medicine, between its massive columns and under its vaults which dominate you with their two hundred years of ‘age. It is medicine combined with the past that is shown here, the evolution of its techniques over the ages: its windows are thus full of rare pieces, often surprisingly beautiful, which evoke medicine for the visitor frightened by the sight of a needle. closer to sadistic torture than loving care. From the beginning of the wandering under the superb glass roof of the museum, over the display cases mounted on fine woodwork, we quickly understand that in the Middle Ages and for many years (which above all must have seemed very long to the patients of the time ), the priorities of medicine were not really the same as today. The first displays show us collections of saws and instruments needed to perform amputations, the precision and efficiency of which have fortunately improved over time. Serious war wounds (if the amputation was accomplished by an enemy sword, tools can « make a beautiful stump » as a sign nicely states), and advanced infections without known treatment, indeed often required the pure and simple cutting of the limb to avoid intolerable suffering and contamination of the rest of the body.

An unusual outing

Another pastime obviously very popular with the doctors of the time, the good old trepanation, very clearly the fact of drilling a hole in the cranium of a consenting individual. Again, many utensils have been created and perfected over the years, but what is striking is the refinement brought to the making of real trepanation kits, the gleaming tips perfectly aligned in boxes lined with velvet. The pubic region was also at the center of all attention, very vulnerable to disease and various pathologies among our ancestors.

Le musée de la medecine

12 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, 75006 Paris

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