chapter  4
19 Pages

Gender, Fate and McGill University’s Medical Collections: e Case of Curator Maude Abbott

Let us begin by looking at a group photograph dated 1905. It was taken when the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal was establishing its international reputation and possessed one of the largest collections of anatomical and pathological specimens in North America (see Figure 4.1). The lecturer was Canadian-born William Osler (1849-1919) who was, in his time, the best-known North American figure in medicine. A graduate of McGill and its first full-time medical faculty member, Osler was idolized as the ‘father of modern medicine’ by two generations of medical students and practitioners.1 His quest was to bring high standards and scientific methods into general practice by promoting teaching hospitals and medical museums as authoritative places in the training and education of doctors. This photograph was taken in the newly built surgical amphitheatre at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. There, students had the opportunity to develop observational skills necessary for looking at patients: they were to take seeing and knowing the body as its focal point and its common objective.2