Adler Museum – Focus on the History of Medicine

Located at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Adler Museum of Medicine is a tribute to the medical fields of dentistry, medicine, optometry and pharmacy. It was founded in 1962 by Dr Cyril Adler and was originally housed at the South African Institute for Medical Research. The role of the Museum was to collect and preserve all material that would illustrate the history of medicine, with a strong focus on developments in South Africa, for posterity. The goal has most certainly been met and today the Adler Museum of Medicine makes for an interesting walk through the echelons of medicine.

The Museum’s real legacy started in 1974 when Dr Cyril and Ester Adler decided to present the Museum to the University of the Witwatersrand. In return for their generosity, the University decided to name the museum after the Adlers. In addition to this, they also gave Dr. Adler the degree of Doctor of Laws and Mrs. Adler a degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Ester Adler acted as the museums curator until her death in 1982 while Dr Cyril Adler remained the director and curator of the Adler museum until his death six years later. The pair did an excellent job in preserving and displaying the many interesting medical artifacts which can be found in the Adler Museum of Medicine and a trip to the museum will fill you with awe, fear and respect.

Today when you visit this medical museum you will find a plethora of interesting medical instruments, documents, sculptures, pictures and videos on display. The museum features a library of rare medical books and other interesting information on medicine in South Africa which is available to a number of students, researchers and interested members of the public. Amongst the items on display you will find a pair of early iron lungs as well as information relating to the fossils discovered at the Cradle of Humankind and a reconstruction of an African herb shop complete with sangoma (traditional healer). There is also a reconstruction of a 20th century pharmacy, a dental surgery, a doctor’s consulting room and an optometry display. There is also a section dedicated to homeopathy, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and Unani. Some of the exhibitions may make your skin crawl – such as the one which documents experiments with early electro-medical equipment.

The Adler Museum of Medicine regularly arranges public lectures, tours, film shows and exhibitions for members of the public and is open every week day between 9:30am and 4:00pm. So visit this excellent museum and discover just how far medicine has come.

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