Museum of the History of Medicine
12, Rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, 75006 Paris (Map)
Métro: Odéon | Website
Le Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine is one of my favorite finds in all of my time in France. I'd never even heard of it 'til an American friend posted a link to it on my blog, asking me if I'd been there. I sure hadn't, and I made plans to go right away! I've always been a huge fan of medical museums and sought them out in all my travels (my favorites so far being the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum in Berlin), and I'm pleased to report that le Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine did not disappoint! It's a relatively small but absolutely fascinating museum if you're into creepy medical stuff. The place only takes about 45 minutes or an hour to see, and it's delightfully weird.
The Musée is full of things like scary old medical instruments, creepy medical models, strange prosthetic limbs, and more. One of the strangest and coolest items, which you'd totally miss if you're not looking for it, is a small circular table right by the staircase to go up to the second floor. At a glance, the little table doesn't seem too noteworthy, but take a closer look. It's got an intricate design under the glass top, which is made entirely of human body parts, with a real human foot as the centerpiece. Seriously:
My picture doesn't do this thing justice at all! The colors are much richer (which is pretty disgusting in itself!), but the lighting wasn't so hot. Anyway, this item was apparently a gift to Napoléon III from an Italian doctor in 1866. I neglected to get a good enough photo of the accompanying card so I could translate it for you, dear readers, but fortunately I found a translation of it here:
"Made by Efisio Marini, Italian naturalist doctor, and offered to Napoléon III. This table is formed of petrified brains, blood, bile, liver, lungs and glands upon which rests a foot, four ears and sections of vertebrae, which are also petrified."
Ha! Wow. Ugh.
The street where you'll find the entrance to the museum, Rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, can be a little tricky to find if you don't know where to look. Take the Métro to Odéon, and from the exit, locate the Starbucks (I know, sorry, it's the easiest landmark). Put the Starbucks on your right and you'll be looking down a tiny street that runs more or less parallel to the big boulevard that the Métro station is next to. This is the Rue de l'Ecole de Médecine. You're already almost there! Walk down that street a bit, and number 12 will soon be there on your left.
When you arrive at number 12 and go inside, you might feel like you're going in somewhere where you shouldn't be, but don't worry, it's cool. You're going into the the entrance to a big, imposing university building, and you have to go way to the back, up some stairs, through some long empty hallways, et cetera. There are signs for the Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine every now and then assuring you you're going in the right direction, so just keep an eye out for those. When you finally get there, there's a big wooden door you have to open, and you'll feel like you shouldn't, but it's fine! Just go in, and there'll be a desk on the right where you can pay your admission.
Anyway, here are a bunch more pictures from the museum!
The museum space itself is absolutely gorgeous. That's the whole place: just this room and the walkway off to the side up above.
A sixteenth-century prosthetic hand! So cool!
A nineteenth-century hand-powered chainsaw! Badass!
Old-timey hearing aids.
Creepy medical model.
Creepy Cool Stuff in Paris writer. (That's me! I'm a visitor, not an exhibit.)
There are apparently two other small medical museums in Paris the woman working at the desk told me about them but I haven't had the time to track them down and check them out yet. From what I hear, this one is the best in terms of old, weird, strange items to gawk at. I can't recommend it enough!
Related junk from Cool Stuff in Paris:
La Grande Galerie de l'Évolution Tons of great taxidermy and skeletons.
Les Catacombes de Paris More skulls than you can shake a femur at.
Musée de la chasse et de la Nature The Museum of Hunting and Nature.
Deyrolle Legendary Parisian taxidermy shop.
Avion III Steampunk bat plane in the Musée des Arts et Métiers.