Napoleon's toothbrush, anyone?

By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Corrrespondent

Britain's strangest new museum - a mixture of art, science, medicine - will throw open its doors today.

A visitor to the museum walks past a sculpture called 'I can't help the way I feel' by John Isaacs

The 30 million Wellcome Collection in London is a cabinet of curiosities: almost 1,500 exhibits ranging from amputation saws, 19th century Japanese sex aids, a modern heart-and-lung machine, Nelson's razor, Napoleon's toothbrush, a DNA sequencing robot and a complete set of human arteries and veins used at the medical school in Padua in the 18th century.

Alongside works of art by Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol and Marc Quinn there is a ram's head hollowed out to contain snuff and, slightly disturbingly, a diseased heart removed from a 22-year-old woman a fortnight ago in a transplant operation.

The heart of Jennifer Sutton was removed on June 3 at Papworth Hospital, Cambs, because she was suffering from restrictrive cardiomyopathy and is shown alongside the hearts of a whale, a pig, a badger and a ray.

Curators said yesterday that they knew no more about Miss Sutton and that the heart and other exhibits were not intended to constitute a freak show but to show off "the wonders of the world".

The collection is a legacy of Sir Henry Wellcome, the pharmaceuticals entrepreneur and philanthropist, who died in 1936.

He left his company, Burroughs Wellcome, to a charitable trust, as well as his extraordinary collection of one million medical and anthropological objects gathered from around the world.


The Wellcome Collection was founded by Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), an entrepreneur philanthropist who established world-class medical research laboratories.

(Charles Darwin's walking stick)

His vision was to create a space to house his collections, where professionals could come to learn more about the development of medicine and medical science.

Whalebone walking stick with skull pommel in ivory, once owned by Charles Darwin, 19th century
Wellcome Library, London

An Iron 'scold's bridle' or 'branks' mask, with large nose piece, grotesque ears and two horns, used to publicly humiliate and punish, mainly women, for speaking out against authority. It was used in Britain until 1800.
Wellcome Library, London

Ivory anatomical model of a pregnant female, 17th century
Wellcome Library, London

Peruvian mummified male, c.1200-1400
Wellcome Library, London