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Wistar Collection Flexes Mental Muscle in London

Recently the Wellcome Museum in London unveiled its latest exhibit, “Brains.” The exhibition explores what humans have done with and to brains in the name of medical intervention, scientific inquiry, cultural meaning and technological change—and it does so with the help of former Wistar scientists and items from our museum collection.

Items from the Wistar collection on display at the Wellcome Museum include the model pictured (of the left hemisphere of the brain in plaster and paint), which was most likely purchased by Joseph Leidy, M.D., around 1850 while traveling through Paris.  Leidy was curator of the Wistar and Horner collection at the University of Pennsylvania prior to its transfer to the Institute in 1894.

Wistar also contributed two newspaper articles to the exhibition from our archives. One cutting from The North American circa 1906 details the research of Wistar scientist Henry Donaldson, Ph.D., who studied brain development in rats in an effort to understand what made “smart” men’s brains unique.

At Wistar, Donaldson examined rat brain development along with our first foreign scientist Shinkishi Hatai, Ph.D., and Helen Dean King, Ph.D., our first female scientist.

The second article from an unknown source circa 1920, “Have Men More Brains than Women?”, again considers the influence of the brain’s size and weight on intelligence. By this time in the study of brains, researchers were able to conclude that the size and weight of one’s brain don’t determine one’s intelligence.

“Brains: The Mind as Matter” will be on display in London until June 17, 2012.

If you don’t have plans to visit London this summer (bummer), you’re in luck! Many of the items on display are available to view online, be sure to check out Wellcome’s interactive model of a human brain!

Photo courtesy of Wellcome Museum, London.