The Monroe Moosnick Medical and Science Museum – Lexington, Kentucky - Atlas Obscura

The Monroe Moosnick Medical and Science Museum

Outstanding collection of 19th century medical instruments includes a life-size figure cast from as many as 200 cadavers. 


Named after a late Transylvania University chemistry professor that was with the school for five decades, the Monroe Moosnick Medical and Science Museum is filled with medical instruments and other medical paraphernalia that were state-of-the-art in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, it has been said, many of the instruments look like something out of a science fiction novel or movie.

Used to teach the principles of chemistry, biology, and physics, the instruments held by the museum include anatomical models, botanical paintings and more. The majority of the pieces in the collection were purchased in London and Paris between about 1820 and 1850 and brought to the school to be used by students in the medical program.

Two particular items of interest are the 14-inch-diameter hairball from the stomach of a buffalo given to the school by George Rogers Clark Todd, the youngest brother of Mary Todd Lincoln, when he graduated from the medical program; and a rare Medical Venus, a life-sized dissectible wax figure of a woman created by casting organs and tissues from as many as 200 cadavers.

While the museum is open by appointment only, some pieces from the collection, judged by a visiting specialist from the Smithsonian Institution to be among the finest in the nation for the time period it represents, are on rotating display in the lobby of the Brown Science Center.


Know Before You Go

Ours is not a typical museum. The collection is not housed in a single location on campus and so is not open for visitors to come and go. We are not staffed, guided visits are conducted by a single faculty member who also teaches and conducts research with Transylvania University. Currently, visits to see artifacts are by appointment only and reserved for those in research.

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September 8, 2010

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