Campus curiosities 14

September 30, 2005

John Hall-Edwards' hand and Gracie Fields' uterus, Birmingham University

For Major John Hall-Edwards, the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen proved to be a life-changing revelation. In 1896, the GP and amateur photographer became the first man in the UK to use the new technology for medical treatment. But he paid a price for being a pioneer. In 1908, his left hand and lower arm had to be amputated as they succumbed to the ravages of radiological dermatitis, so often had he used them to demonstrate the power of X-rays to curious students.

Undaunted, Hall-Edwards donated his amputated limb to Birmingham University's Medical School and it can be seen in the pathology collection, where it is still used for teaching.

Among the other specimens is a preserved human uterus, reputed to have been removed from Dame Gracie Fields. Shortly before the Second World War, the singer, famous for her song Sally , allegedly had a hysterectomy at Birmingham Women's Hospital. It was said to have been carried out by the leading gynaecologist Dame Hilda Lloyd, the university's first female professor. But there are no official records to confirm that the uterus in the collection belonged to Dame Gracie.

The school's now-disbanded anatomy collection once included the skeleton of Jane Bunford, who at 2.36m (7ft 9in) was once the tallest-known woman in the world.

Please login or register to read this article.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments