The Old Anatomical Theatre was built in 1805, having been designed by the university’s architect, Johann Wilhelm Krause, on the south slope of Toome Hill in a location formerly occupied by the Carl Gustaf bastion, a defensive structure erected during the reign of Swedish kings in Estonia.
Originally built as a classical rotunda, the anatomical theatre received arc-shaped wings in 1825-1827, also according to Krause’s plans. The building acquired its current U-shaped floorplan in 1856-1860 with the addition of the last major extensions, designed by the architect Karl Rathaus.
The word ‘old’ was added to the name of the building in 1888, when construction of the ‘new’ anatomical theatre was completed.
Many famous medical scientists have worked at the Old Anatomical Theatre. Among others, these include Karl Burdach, one of the most renowned anatomists of the first quarter of the 19th century, who turned his attention to the morphology of the human brain, its ontogenesis and phylogenesis, as well as Karl Kupffer, who is regarded as the founder of comparative embryology. The anatomical theatre was also used by the anatomy professor August Rauber, who in 1886 authored an internationally acclaimed textbook on anatomy, which has been republished 20 times (the latest updated edition was published in Germany in 1987), and by Friedrich Bidder, one of the most renowned physiologists of the middle of the 19th century, whose research focused on the physiology and histology of the nervous system, as well as on nutritional physiology.
Until 1999, the building was in the hands of the Faculty of Medicine. By the end of the 20th century, its facilities had become outdated and the structure itself too small for the needs of the faculty. In the same year, construction of the new academic building (Biomedicum, the Biomedical Building) in Maarjamõisa field was completed.
In 2005, to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the Old Anatomical Theatre, UT History Museum used the building, which has played a prominent role in the history of medical science, as the premisis for the exhibition 200 Years of Old Anatomical Theatre. In addition to the exhibition, the anatomical theatre is used to display the medical collections of the UT Faculty of Medicine.
You can visit UT Faculty of Medicine medical collections at Science Centre AHHAA.