The history of the Gordon Museum
The Gordon Museum in its present location was opened at Guy’s in 1905 as a result of a donation by Robert Gordon, then Governor of Guy’s Hospital, or £45,000 to support pathology research and teaching. This new Museum was intended to be a teaching resource devoted purely to human material.
There has been a collection of specimens and other medical ephemera on the Guy’s Campus since 1802 and this formed the basis of the Medical School’s first Museum which opened in 1826. Within the collection are specimens which predate this, but were less systematically collated - the earliest specimens are from circa 1608.
The specimens were initially brought together by Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866), the first Medical Curator and lecturer in Morbid Anatomy at Guy’s. These formed the basis of the Museum in the first medical School of 1826. Under Hodgkin’s curatorship the Museum became well-established so that his catalogue of 1829 lists approximately 3000 exhibits. Further Museum sites were established on site to house the growing collection. By 1861, the London Journal of Medicine reported that ‘the Museums are on a scale which entitles them to rank among the first of our national collections.’
The Museum also has some historically very significant pathology and surgical specimens on display, such as the original specimens of kidneys, adrenal glands, and lymph nodes which led Richard Bright, Thomas Addison and Thomas Hodgkin to describe their eponymous diseases. The Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768-1841) surgical specimen collection can also be seen.
The Museum is one of the few medical Museums in the country that continues to accept new specimens to document new and emerging diseases like HIV/AIDS. Recent projects include analysing DNA from organs to discover whether the patient has suffered from malaria and scanning larger specimens using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to gain insights into the diseases’ effects on the organs’ internal structure.
The Gordon Museum on the present site after 1905