Dr. Mütter’s Marvels

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A wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, collects all sorts of unusual items. They may be objects d’art, memories or relics. These private collections of contemplation serve as the precursors for museums and freak shows. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is home to the Mutter Museum, a wunderkammer of medical oddities donated by pioneering surgeon Thomas Dent Mütter. Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz will read from the biography Dr. Mütter’s Marvels at Quimby’s Bookstore on October 4.

Thomas Mütter rose from humble beginnings as an antebellum orphan to become a pioneering surgeon. Flamboyant enough to wear silk suits during surgery and add an umlaut to Mutter, he was also compassionate enough to oppose operating on the severely deformed while they were conscious and to use sterile conditions. He collected medical oddities to assist his lectures.

He donated 1,344 anomalies to the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia in 1858. The Mütter Museum expanded on the specimens from Dr. Isaac Parish. The museum went on to amass strange objects like Florence Nightingale’s sewing kit, the death cast of Siamese Twins Chang and Eng, president Grover Cleveland’s jaw tumor, a thorax tissue sample from John Wilkes Booth and one hundred human skulls from Austrian anatomist Joseph Hyrtl.

Philadelphia native and award-winning slam poet Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz will read selections from Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine at Quimby’s Bookstore on October 4 at 7pm. Quimby’s is located at 1854 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL.

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