Count your modern medical blessings when you encounter historic medical memorabilia at the Adler Museum of Medicine. From bleeding and cupping equipment and a 19th century amputation set to electrical apparatus favoured by Queen Victoria to ease her rheumatism, this quirky museum provides a fascinating peek into our unhealthy past.

Did you know?

The Adler Museum of Medicine houses a fascinating historic ophthalmology section.

Find out about Victorian ear trumpets, early bleeding and cupping instruments, cranial crushers, notorious 'iron lungs' from the 20th century polio epidemics, the first ECG machine and much more when you visit the Adler Museum of Medicine at the Wits Medical School, University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.

Established in 1962 by Dr Cyril and Mrs Esther Adler, the Adler Museum of Medicine comprises a whistle-stop journey through some of our medical, dental and pharmacological past.

Marvel at just how far modern medicine has come when you enter an early 20th century operating theatre of the type where it is rumoured that Baron Joseph Lister, British surgeon and pioneer of antiseptic surgery, would start surgical proceedings by announcing, 'come gentlemen, let us spray'.

Sit in an ancient dentist’s chair and thank your lucky stars that modern dentistry has advanced since those nerve-wracking days of pincers and screws, or figure out a 19th century 'patent magnetic electrical machine for nervous diseases' that Queen Victoria used to alleviate her rheumatism.

There’s also the first electrocardiograph machine used in the Johannesburg General Hospital, and poignant reminders of the mid-20th century polio epidemics – grim iron lungs resembling metal coffins.

But there’s much more to this quirky, informative museum than antiquated and fearsome pieces of medical equipment. Discover pictures, photographs, sculptures, documents, stamp and medal collections, as well as a rare book and medical reference library.

Apart from the temporary exhibitions, there is also a comprehensive permanent exhibition relating to HIV/AIDS, with dramatic visual displays.

Whether you're a student, health professional, researcher, or just an interested member of the public, this one-of-a-kind museum in South Africa is well worth a visit.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Adler Museum of Medicine
Tel: +27 (0)11 717 2067

How to get here

The Adler Museum of Medicine is situated at 7 York Road, Parktown, close to the University of the Witwatersrand's downtown campus.

Best time to visit

The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4pm. It is closed on weekends and public holidays. After-hours visits by appointment.

What will it cost

Entrance to the museum is free.

What's happening

Temporary exhibitions on subjects ranging from malaria to TB and cardiology.