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Bloomsbury Institutions


Grant’s Museum of Zoology

Also known as Grant Museum/Grant Museum of Zoology/Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy


It was founded by Robert Grant in 1827 as an adjunct to the foundation of the new University of London (now UCL)

For Grant, his ‘zootomical museum’ was crucial in the formation of zoology as a discipline at UCL

He used is as a teaching resource, and as a place in which he could conduct anatomical and physiological research, even keeping live animals such as spiders there

Others, such as the Benthamite physiologist Thomas Southwood Smith, used it as a place to which they could refer their questions regarding the nature of animal anatomy

The Museum is now used for teaching and research into zoological anatomy, as a resource for anatomical drawing and art, and as an educational and recreational collection for the general public.

It was renamed the Grant Museum of Zoology in honour of its founder in 1997

What was reforming about it?

Zoology only became an important science for the understanding of the human body during the nineteenth century; by helping teaching medical students about animal life, the Museum helped constitute medicine as a self-consciously ‘scientific’ discipline

It also became an important tool with which zoologists at UCL were able to link the anatomies of humans and animals: it seemed to indicate that human bodies could be understood as the culmination of a gradual evolution of organic forms

The Museum is now the only surviving university zoological museum in London

Where in Bloomsbury

It was based at UCL in Gower Street from its foundation; it has moved around within various buildings of UCL since its foundation, most recently in 2011, when it was relocated to the Rockefeller Building on the other side of Gower Street

Website of current institution

www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/zoology (opens in new window)

Books about it

Adrian Desmond, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London (1989)

Sarah E. Parker, Robert Edmund Grant (1793–1874) and his Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy (2006)

See also Joe Cain, ‘No Ordinary Space: A Brief History of the Grant Museum’s new home at University College London’ (opens in new window)


Relevant material is contained within the Grant papers in UCL Special Collections, ref. MS Add. 28; further details are available online via the UCL Special Collections website (opens in new window)

There is also some relevant material in the College Correspondence, nos 379–394 and 759–760, and in the College Correspondence (Medical Faculty), no. 27

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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