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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


Anatomy teaching at Cambridge


Human dissection at Cambridge dates back over 450 years in colleges such as Gonville & Caius, and Magdalene, and 2016 marked the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the Anatomy School in Queens' Lane in 1716.  Today, Cambridge continues to offer students the irreplaceable experience of full-body dissection in the Functional Architecture of the Body course. 

Hands-on dissection enables students to discover the amazing structure of the human body for themselves and provides unparalleled opportunities to participate in anatomical research. Added benefits include enhancing professionalism through their respect for donors; ensuring future patient safety through recognition of anatomical variations; developing manual dexterity by dissection; and acquiring clinical knowledge by discovering diseases or previous surgery.

Our teaching programme is only possible due to the altruistic generosity of countless donors over the years. Our students show their gratitude by writing tributes for the committal service, and an annual thanksgiving service is held for relatives and friends who have made considerable sacrifices to fulfil the final wishes of their loved ones. Our sincere appreciation is shown by our total commitment to dissection-based teaching and our continued efforts to make full use of these precious gifts that have been entrusted to us through translational research.

Our department strongly believes that teaching through cadaveric dissection is the best and most effective way of providing students with a comprehensive and realistic appreciation of topographical anatomy. In addition, the supplementary skills acquired will stand our students in good stead as they continue through to their clinical years, helping them to achieve the outcomes for doctors as stated by the General Medical Council: the doctor as a scholar and scientist, practitioner, and professional.