History of the Anatomy and Histology Department in the Anderson Stuart Building 1884-2010


A brief history of the Discipline
Major building works
Internal Building Spaces:

Anderson Stuart Building side entrance - 1920s

Anderson Stuart Building side entrance - 1920s

A brief history of the Discipline

The Faculty of Medicine was initially formed in June, 1857. In 1860 the Medical school was established but without adequate space, facilities and funding. It was realised that a new Medical school building would be required.

In 1883, Thomas Peter Anderson Stuart took up office of Professor of Anatomy & Physiology and set about building a grand new medical school. The new magnificent bulding, designed by James Barnet was completed in 1889. The building, more recently called the "old medical school," now takes Anderson Stuarts name. In 1890, Anderson Stuart initiated the Challis chair of Anatomy with J. T. Wilson appointed - and the Department of Anatomy was born.

In 1928, C. W. Stump was appointed Bosch chair of Histology & Embryology with formal separation from the Anatomy Department occurring in 1956. The two departments of Anatomy and Histology & Embryology co-existed until 1993 with the amalgamation of the department of Anatomy with Histology & Embryology. C. D. Shorey was Head of the re-united Anatomy department.

Major building works

Current building works

  • February 2010

    In early 2010 Federal Government funding under the Capital Development Pool 2010 was made available for the Anderson Stuart teaching and mortuary reconfiguration. The funding was given in order for the Discipline of Anatomy and Histology to update it’s teaching spaces and to expand the mortuary to ensure the discipline’s obligation under the NSW Anatomy Act were being met and in line with best practice.

    To allow for the reconfiguration of the teaching spaces it was decided that the ideal location would be on level 4 at the eastern end of the building, adjacent to the prosectory laboratory (E428) and opposite the Macintosh tutorial room (S402) which had recently undergone its own transformation. The teaching space would, in a limited way, reinstate the Harveian theatre that was one of the original large teaching spaces in the building. The new space would mirror the Macintosh Tutorial Room in its newly refurbished layout and provide for teaching of up to 100 students.

    Since it was dismantled, the Harveian theatre had been divided into smaller rooms across two levels, most recently a research laboratory, photography area and facilities room (E411-E422) on level 4 and the Michael Blunt tutorial rooms (E514-E516) on level 5. The plan for the reconfiguration required the translocation of these areas.

    In the mortuary precinct a total reconfiguration and expansion plan was developed to enable the storage of up to 170 bodies in cold room storage, coffin storage for 100 coffins and a dedicated prosection laboratory for postgraduate dissection courses. In order to do this, additional space was needed and the dos Remedios laboratory (W104-107, S158, S157) was displaced as was the physiology cold room (S155) and anatomy departmental storeroom (S143).

    The schedule of works was organised into 2 major stages with the first involving the demolition of the Michael Blunt tutorial rooms and the building of the new Gerke laboratory, immunohistochemistry laboratory, photography studio and print/copy room.

    14/2/11 – 18/4/11
    Stage 1 (Early Works)

    Decanting of the tutorial rooms was begun and demolition of the partition walls followed. The original mini orb ceiling was retained and where possible exposed whilst the skylight (part of the illumination for the old 1930’s dissecting room) was left intact but covered over. The windows were reglazed with transparent glass providing views over Eastern Avenue and across to the New Law School from the new offices and photography studio.

    9/5/11 -
    Stage 2 (Major Works) To enable the continuing function of the mortuary and prosectory laboratory, the second stage of works was scheduled in 3 sub-stages for both level 1 and level 4.

    Works on level 1, stage 2A; cool room 1, departmental store room, prosection laboratory and chemical store room; stage 2B coffin racks, gross dissection laboratory and tank storage room; stage 2C cool room 2, embalming room and reception area.

    Works on level 4, stage 2A; prosectory laboratory, bone room; stage 2B tutorial room; stage 2C heritage works.

    Heritage works (liberation of the eastern window)
    Level 4/5

    Due to the major works being carried out affecting the eastern end of the level 4 corridor with the reinstated wall, the opportunity was ceased upon to liberate the eastern stained glass windows which had been blocked from internal viewing since the early 20’s; except for the privileged few who worked in the prosectory laboratory or those using the male toilet on level 5. The relocation of the prosectory laboratory (level 4) and the immunohistochemistry laboratory (level 5) made it possible for the staircase to be removed and an alternative stair located nearby to provide access to level 5. Additional funding was procured from the Anderson Stuart Refurbishment Fund to enable this work to be completed to a standard befitting the building and its heritage.

    This work is continuing and will be finished in late 2011.

Past building works

  • June 1884
    Senate approved the erection of the Medical School Building without delay.

    November 22, 1884
    James Barnet, Colonial Architect, Draws plans for the basement and first floor of the Medical School Building.

    March 1885
    The precise location of the building was decided to be 160 feet south of the Main Building on Grose Farm Ridge in alignment with the eastern end of the Great Hall. Enhancing the grand panorama from Macleay Building to the north, Main Building and the new Medical School Building.

    Excavation for the basement and foundation work began and was soon expanded upon to provide for more cellars.

    The basement was devoted to the mortuary and areas for the preparation and storage of cadavers. Lavatories, Porter’s rooms, a Medical Jurisprudence Room and refectory.

    The ground floor consisted of laboratories, the Anatomy Museum, a reading room and Anderson Stuarts own workshop and private rooms.

    The upper floor consisted of six large teaching spaces including a dissecting room in the southeast corner. The Vesalian, Cullenian, Hallerian, Hunterian and Harveian Theatres each had tiered seating and a demonstration space at the front of the room. An annexe from the dissecting room provided a large lavatory and change room, also connected was the Demonstrator of Anatomy’s room. The anatomical prosectory, physiology instrument room and other offices and small teaching rooms filled the areas in between the main teaching spaces.

    February 4, 1889
    The building was officially opened and the professor and lecturers took possession, though the external work was not completed until April 1889 and much of the internal finishing trades were not completed until 1890 and furniture and fittings were still being installed until 1892.

    September 1906
    The University sought advise from the Government Architect ,W. L. Vernon, on how to increase the accommodation at the Medical School.

    December 1907
    Plans were completed for the northwest range with alterations to the existing building to provide continuous access.

    Work began on the northwest range and was completed in 1910.

    April 1910
    A further extension of a northeast range was drawn up. An open cloister was added linking the middle northern wing of the original Barnet building with the gallery linking the two new additions. The external spiral staircase linking the galleries was also built at this time.

    Work on the northeast range was begun and completed in 1912.

    January 1915
    Government architects prepared block plans for how future expansion might be arranged.

    June 1916
    Anderson Stuart was again thinking of further expansion of the Medical School Building. The favoured proposal was for extensions of the east and west ranges to the south and a transaxial (north-south) extension to the south creating a circular anatomy museum.

    Leslie Wilkinson became involved with the new plans and considered removal of the circular anatomy museum and the completion of a southern range enclosing a southern courtyard. The north-south axis of the building was to be reinforced, as previously planned, linking the yet to be completed northern infill between the northwest and northeast ranges. None of these proposals were ever acted on.

    Leslie Wilkinson planned and completed the final insertion of the northern entrance, completing the building externally.

    C1490s check with Arthur Everitt or Liam Burke
    The two storey insertion of a cement rendered building within the western courtyard was completed.

    The sunken eastern courtyard was redeveloped to bring the level up to the ground floor (level 2). The Regis palm tree was retained but Kentia palm removed. Now called Donna Anderson Stuart Court in honour of the benefactor.

    Raven fountain installed in newly redeveloped courtyard.

Internal building spaces

Anatomy Museums

There is evidence to suggest that as early as 1888 J.T. Wilson had begun accumulating specimens for the Museum of Normal and Morbid Anatomy that was located in the northern wing of the ground floor, now the Anderson Stuart Common Room. This space was originally designed to have a northern projection of the internal corridor but this was later abandoned. Adjacent was the Museum Curator’s workroom, the Curator’s Workshop was located in the basement.

Wilson initiated the appointment of Prosectors into the department to produce exhibits for the museum. With the exception of the Blunt era (1973-1988), the tradition continues to this day.

A gallery was created in the Cullenian Theatre (pathology and materia medica) to accommodate the growing anatomy museum collection.

It was proposed that the museum be moved to the first floor in the location of the Hunterian Lecture Theatre. This was not acted upon.

The plans for the new southern wing included the circular Museum of Anatomy but this proposal was not fulfilled and the museum remained in its original location.

Another gallery of anatomical specimens were installed in the Vesalian Theatre as well as under the tiered seating.

With the completion of the New Medical School (Blackburn Building) the morbid (pathology) specimens were moved out of the Wilson Museum to form the Pathology Museum. At this time the collection was relocated to the first floor in the location of the Cullenian Theatre that already had a gallery of specimens in it. (room W401)

The museum was renamed the J.T. Wilson Museum of Anatomy by Professor A. N. St G. Burkitt.

The gallery was enclosed to form a complete mezzanine to be named the J.L. Shellshear Museum of Physical Anthropology & Comparative Anatomy. The Museum was named by the Senate in 1959. The refurbishment was instigated by Prof. Jonathan Stone.

Challis Professor of Anatomy, M. J. Blunt, converted the main dissecting room into four tutorial rooms and named them the Macintosh Tutorial Rooms.

With funds donated by Mrs Ann Macintosh the Shellshear Museum was refurbished with a parquet floor and new cabinets of Queensland Walnut and Kauri pine were installed. Air conditioning was installed at a later date.

The mortuary was renovated to for the first time since 1955 with a modernisation of the cool rooms and vinyl flooring.

A donation from Mrs Ann Macintosh provided the seed funding to refurbish the Wilson Museum. Lighting, painting and new flooring were the first considerations but once the Dean became aware of the plans they were expanded to involve a complete strip out and refit of the space. Professor Bill Webster (HOD) formed a refurbishment committee to help steer the redevelopment of the museum.

With the appointment of Alisdair Macdonald Architects, the plans were formalised and within six months the museum was closed and work began.

March 2008
In the second week of semester one the J.T. Wilson Museum was open again to students.

October 1, 2008
The Dean, Professor Bruce Robinson, and the new Head of Discipline of Anatomy, Associate Professor Kevin Keay officially opened the museum.

Dissecting Rooms

One of the original large teaching areas, the dissecting room (S402) was sparsely furnished and had 18 dissecting tables with tops made from 2½ inch marble. Plaster models [picture] and anatomical illustrations adorned the walls. The room was lit large windows in the east and south walls, also allowing ventilation.

The Harveian Theatre was converted to a dissecting room (E411 - E422) and both it and the original dissecting room (S402) had a new large skylight installed to provide better top lighting. The spiral staircase to the ground floor was removed.

The east-west corridor was shut off by a pair of doors at the top of the stairs at the east end. A mezzanine floor was built on the space of the Harveian Theatre and the new dissecting room was moved upstairs. Adjustments were made to the skylight lowering the glazed section of the ceiling. The lower part of the Harveian Theatre was used for various purposes.

Until 1973 the Demonstrators’ dissecting room (Bryne Laboratory (S625 – S632) and later Bandler Laboratory (S501 – S510) were the primary spaces for preparing prosected material.

The main dissecting room was subdivided into four rooms for small group tutorials at the behest of Professor Blunt who was instituting a new style of teaching using prosections and discontinuing whole body dissection. These were named the Macintosh Tutorial Rooms. One of the rooms was later converted to a specialised specimen storage room in 1984.

July 2004
HOD Bill Webster had up to date AV equipment installed through out the tutorial rooms to facilitate the use of DVD’s of pre-recorded demonstrations to help deliver the same content to multiple repeat sessions that were necessary with the large numbers of students.

The Macintosh Tutorial Rooms were gutted and the space returned to a large teaching area for the dual purpose of whole body dissection and large group tutorials. The prosectors of 2008 were the first people to use the new room.

The first whole body dissection course of the current era was run by Professor Ramsey-Stewart in January and February amid inadequate air conditioning which cost a considerable portion of the refurbishment expenses.

Macintosh Dissecting Room (W413)

One of the original large teaching spaces with tiered seating and storage space underneath this area was first the Hallerian Theatre (midwifery and medical jurisprudence).

The Vernon plans for the northwestern range saw the space become divided to provide corridor access to the new wing. The remaining large space was called the Study and Bone Room.

The Study and Bone Room was converted into a dissecting room and space for the Masters of Medicine students.

With the addition of the annexe and more lighting the dissecting room was improved.

The dissecting Room was renovated, the floor tiled and air conditioning installed and it was named the Macintosh Dissecting Room.

A second Ultrascope was installed along with two large flat screen monitors, one in the main room and one in the Annexe. A single demonstrator could now project images of the specimen to a larger audience. Stools were arranged for every demonstration session then stacked to the side when not in use.

With the dismantling of the Macintosh Tutorial rooms the surplus monitors were installed in the dissecting room and the room was used as a large tutorial room in trial for the soon to be completed large tutorial room in the location of the original dissecting room in the southeast corner. (S402)

Prosectory Laboratory

1884 (S420)
The prosectory was originally adjacent to the eastern side of the Hunterian Theatre opposite the Demonstrator’s office (S421).

With the alterations to the dissecting rooms at the eastern end of the corridor the prosectory was moved into the old Demonstrator’s office (S421) on the southern side of the corridor. More space was made for the demonstrators beyond a new staircase inserted into the Eastern end of the corridor (giving access to a WC, urinal and cloak room upstairs) and between the two dissecting rooms.

Doors were introduced to the dissecting room complex when the Harveian Dissecting Room was moved upstairs. The walls separating the Demonstrator’s Room from the dissecting rooms were removed and a wooden floor was laid over the marble in this area. The view to the eastern stained glass windows was lost due to this unfortunate reconfiguration.

The dissecting room upstairs was converted to small tutorial rooms (E511 - E516) as was done downstairs. This area was named the Blunt Tutorial Rooms. A service room was installed above the stairs in the Demonstrator’s Cloak Room.

The Prosectory was moved to the eastern end of the corridor, previously the Demonstrators Room, and the walls reinstated to separate it from the dissecting room.

A fume extractor was installed in the Prosectory to exhaust the vapours and provide a better environment for full time Prosectors to work in, following the introduction of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1983.

With funds donated from Senior Lecturer John Mitrofanis the lower section of the eastern stained glass windows was cleaned and protective carbonite sheeting and frames installed to enhance the window and provide a retreat for the Prosectory staff.

Vesalian Theatre (S434) - anatomy

One of the original large teaching spaces with tiered seating and storage space underneath.

A gallery for anatomical specimens from the Anatomy Museum was installed and the area under the seating also housed museum specimens.

After the removal of museum specimens the area under the seating was used by Prosectors and it became tradition that they write their names in the timbers of the ceiling.

The theatre served as a dissecting room as the old medical course was phased out.

The tiered seating was removed and the ceiling lowered. The space was divided into three tutorial rooms and an additional room was converted for specimen storage in 1984.

March 2004
An Ultrascope was acquired such as the one that was already in use in the School of Veterinary Science. The Ultrascope was a free standing video camera and light source that had foot or hand operated focus and zoom controls. The camera was found to be insufficient and replaced.

July 2004
The tutorial rooms were removed and the Vesalian Theatre was refurbished to act as demonstration theatre.

Plans submitted by the Anderson Stuart Heritage Committee to reinstate the Vesalian Theatre to its former grand scale with the retention of the area under the tiered seating for specimen storage.

Hunterian Theatre (S442-S447, S543-S 547) - surgery and medicine

One of the original large teaching spaces with tiered seating and storage space underneath. The dais was at the northern end of the room with a mezzanine level accessed via wooden stairs. An epidiascope projected images of textbook pages and glass lantern slides onto a screen at the front of the theatre.

With the recently completed Bosch Lecture Theatres near The Blackburn Building the Hunterian Theatre was dismantles and a mezzanine inserted with a concrete staircase leading from the main corridor.

Electron microscope then removed in 1988.

Burkitt Library (S237) - named after A. N. St G. Burkitt

Established after the Anatomy Museum vacated the space and was moved upstairs. The closed in cloisters that were formerly used for Prosectors was incorporated into the new Library.

Fisher Library was completed and took many of the books that were overflowing on the Burkitt Library shelves.

The Medical library in the new Bosch Building was completed and further reduced the strain on the cluttered Burkitt Library.

The windows of the cloister section of the library were replaced by new commissioned stained glass paid for by the Medical Graduates Association (Medical Graduates Alumni). Now called the Medical Graduates Room (N235)

The Burkitt Library was relocated to the Ford Building forming the Burkitt-Ford Library. The space was refurnished convert it to a staff common room with a kitchen and meeting room (S238)

Dean Andrew Coats proposed he and his administration staff take over the Common Room as their new offices and vacate the Ford Building. This never eventuated.

The Burkitt-Ford Library was closed to be redeveloped as a lounge for Medicine students.

'Major building works' and 'Internal building spaces' content collected and written by Marcus Robinson (Curator, Wilson Museum) and Peter Mills (Honorary Associate and Professional Officer, retired).