College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Edinburgh's Indiana Jones

As part of our series highlighting the work of staff at the University, we focus on the ongoing career of Anatomy Manager, Iain Campbell.

In Columbia with oxen

From monitoring oxen on treadmills to chauffeuring Burke’s skeleton to the Royal Infirmary for a scan; Iain Campbell’s 37 year career at the University of Edinburgh has certainly been diverse.

Buffalo on a treadmill

Iain’s long association with the University of Edinburgh began in 1978 at the Easter Bush Campus. Then the home of the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Iain was employed on a research project measuring the energy costs of the working animal.

Although Iain recalls many a winter’s morning in a cold barn at Easter Bush watching buffalo pull weights on a handmade treadmill, these were more than compensated for by research trips to countries where oxen are the backbone of local agriculture.

During one such trip to Costa Rica, Iain also found time for non-research endeavours including playing in Costa Rica’s first ever hockey and rugby matches and assisting in the training of the national judo squad for the 1984 Olympic Games.

Anatomy teaching

Iain Campbell

In 2000 Iain started in his role as the University’s Anatomy Manager, a position he still holds today. Based at the Old Medical School in Teviot Place, Iain is responsible for the facilities and resources that support anatomy teaching and research at Edinburgh.

For student doctors at Edinburgh, classes in the historic teaching lab comprise a key component of their training. This training is made possible by people who chose to bequeath their body to the University after death. Part of Iain’s role is to communicate this to students and ensure that every ‘gift’ is treated with the highest respect including attending a memorial service with the families of those who have donated.

Information about the body donation process

What lies beneath?

During his time at the Old Medical School, Iain has explored the building’s many hidden corners including the extensive catacombs. He has rescued and reinstated many unique and significant artefacts, many of which are now on display in the Anatomy Museum and throughout the building.

Memorable discoveries include the discovery of a ship’s fork which had been medically removed from a sailor’s neck in the 1800s and the accompanying local newspaper story detailing the incident. 

This more unusual aspect of Iain’s role has also led to him chauffeuring Burke’s skeleton down Dalkeith Road to the Royal Infirmary for a scan and the restoration of the ‘Artist’s Flat’.

Read more about the Artist's Flat

Looking into the future

Despite working in a job surrounded by reminders of Edinburgh’s esteemed medical past; Iain’s post also has a heavy focus to the future. Within Iain’s team are two young, anatomy technician apprentices, whose posts were the first of their kind in Scotland.

A girl with her face painted with the image of a skull next to a skull

As well as learning traditional anatomy skills, Kirsty and Fraser are also fully trained operators of the Anatomage Table, an anatomy visualisation system for anatomy education which enables the exploration of a life size virtual cadaver.

Iain and colleagues are working hard to promote and expand the reach of anatomy teaching and have recently run a number of anatomy public workshops and founded Art and Anatomy Edinburgh.

With a future move confirmed for the Anatomy Museum and the anatomy teaching spaces, Iain is already thinking about the next opportunities, challenges and the extension of his 37 year relationship with the University of Edinburgh. 

Related links


School of Biomedical Sciences