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This model shows the adult human male nervous system. It is part of a rare set of six anatomical tables held by The Royal College of Physicians (London) which are among the oldest surviving human anatomy preparations in the world. The tables are visually spectacular, displaying human veins, nerves and arteries arranged on varnished wooden panels, recreating the systems of the body.
We do not know exactly how the RCP’s tables were made, but we do know that they were dissected at Padua’s famous anatomy theatre in the 1650s. The University of Padua was one of the leading academic centres in Europe, where from 1594 students could watch winter dissections in the steeply-tiered anatomy theatre.
The tables were donated to the RCP by George Finch, Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham. Originally thought to have belonged to the famous physician William Harvey, recent research shows the owner was probably John Finch, an ancestor of the Earl.
The tables are currently on public display on the RCP’s second floor gallery.