In the Flesh: The Monro Dynasty
Three hundred years ago, Scottish army surgeon John Monro (1670-1740) initiated a series of events that lead to the establishment of a dynasty which, beginning with his son Alexander Monro, changed the course of medical teaching and learning. Three men (father, son and grandson), each called Alexander Monro (Primus, Secundus and Tertius), consecutively held the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh for 126 years.
The Medical Library of the University of Otago houses the Monro Collection of books and manuscripts, used and written by the Monros during their careers as students, and later, professors at the University of Edinburgh. Items on display will include a selection of books and manuscripts from the Monro Collection, most notably an impressive copy of Albinus's Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Humani (1747), Vesalius's On the fabric of the human body (1555), Valverde's Vivae Imagines partium corporis humani (1572/79), and Primus' Anatomy of Human Bones, both printed and in manuscript form.
The exhibition affords a glimpse into the development of the thoughts and knowledge of these men, who influenced or who offended them, and how their knowledge was transferred, disseminated and appropriated. Indeed, the dynasty they represent not only reflects a male-dominated world of nepotism, but also reveals important discoveries in the fields of anatomy, surgery and physiology, some of which remain valid today.
This exhibition was co-curated by Kate Thompson, Reference Librarian, and Emeritus Professor Douglass Taylor. Taylor's annotated bibliography The Monro Collection in the Medical Library of the University of Otago proved invaluable in piecing together the life and times of the Monro Dynasty (1720 – 1846).