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A History of the Department

A History of the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience

A History of  the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience

Early Beginnings

Prior to the opening of the department of Anatomy and Physiology in Queens College Cork, Anatomy had been taught in a number of Anatomical Schools in the city. The first School of Anatomy in Cork was opened in 1811 by John Woodroffe in Margaret Street, later moving to Warren's (now Parnell) Place. The last School of Anatomy in Cork closed in 1845.

When Queen’s University College Cork was opened in 1849 it lacked a dedicated Medical Building. In the early years of the University practical anatomy was carried out  in a basement of the Science division, sharing a classroom with botany and geology and dissections were conducted by medical students in a senior class of engineers. Other Classes were taught in the school of medicine in the South Mall.3

The first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology was Professor Alcock.

In 1850 funding for a stand alone Medical Building was provided by Lord Clarendon who had been appointed Lord Lieutenant in 1849.  Built in a Victorian Gothic Revival style the Medical Building was known as the Clarendon Buildingin its early years.  

The Department of Anatomy, originally ‘The Department of Anatomy and Physiology’, has since its opening (and until very recently), occupied the first floor of this Medical Building. The Clarendon Building quickly suffered from overcrowding and lack of space. In 1865 the College council complained that ‘demonstration and dissecting facilities were grossly inadequate’. Improvements had to wait until the appointment of William Kirby Sullivan, the second President of Queen’s College 1873-90.3

Under the direction of President William Kirby Sullivan the Cork the Clarendon building was almost doubled in size. The Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at this time was Professor J.J. Charles. There were also plans, which were never realised, to join the Medical Building to the north-west corner of the Quadrangle, and in doing so create a spacious library.1


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Drawing adapted from Dr Ronan O Rahally, showing left to right original Clarendon Building and extended Medical building as extended by Professor O Sullivan. Arrow indicates the junction of the extension with the old building. 


Clarendon Building after extension

Medical Building after O Sullivan's extension. Note protruding blockwork ready for a proposed  linking of the Medical Building to the Quadrangle. This work was never carried out and blockwork later removed.


The Anatomy Dissecting room, on the first floor, initially had three pairs of windows on the east side of the Clarendon Building, the extension involved removing a chimney and inserting five more sets of windows, creating a spacious and bright dissecting room.  The British Medical Journal of 1879 refers to “the splendid anatomical room, which is 114 feet long, with capital light.1

”The Museum and medical library were located to the north of the building; the first floor of the museum which was a gallery was the location of the anatomical museum. The height of the southern end of the building was raised with the extension of the building.1


The internal arrangement of the building was altered over the years in response to pressure for space and to suit the changing needs of the departments. In 1907 a new dissecting was provided for the exclusive use of women medical students. The gallery anatomical museum was converted into a temporary drawing office.  The north end of the dissecting room was partitioned off for a number of years and used by the department of pathology. The museum was converted into a medical library and the anatomical museum was relocated to the north end of the dissecting room. The original two lecture rooms at the southern end of the building were converted to one large lecture theatre, which is still used today.

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Photograph of Windle Building taken 1990s. With the relocation of the Anatomy and Physiology Departments to the Western Gate Complex a new era for the building has begun.

The ground floor of the Clarendon Building housed departments of pathology, material medica, and physiology. The departments of Anatomy and Physiology were originally one, however in 1907 the departments were separated. The President of the University Professor Windle was appointed Professor of Anatomy and, Professor DT Barry was appointed Professor of Physiology. Physiology now operated as its own department, located on the ground floor of the Medical building with the Department of Pathology. An operating room, physiological laboratory and histological and biochemical laboratories were all subsequently added on the ground floor.

Further Developments in the Department of Anatomy

old medical library

Photograph of Medical library taken in the 1980s this area was then transformed into the then new dissecting room


In the early 1980’s under the direction of Professor John Fraher the Anatomy Department was completely renovated internally. The Boole library was opened in 1982 and this allowed for the relocation of the considerable medical library materials from the medical building to the new Boole library. This freeing up of space in the medical building then allowed  for the construction of a a modern mortuary facility and a new Dissecting room, which was designed in keeping with the architectural ambience of the original building.‌‌

A modern histology laboratory, and several research laboratories to house new equipment and techniques for microscopy and analysis, were also added. Since the 1980s the principal research activity of the department has been in the field of Neuroscience.


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Department of Anatomy research moves to Bioscience Institute

The opening of the Biosciences Institute in 2002 expanded the research capabilities of the department, increasing dramatically the number of postgraduate research students and offering a BSc degree in Neuroscience, the first in Ireland.

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New laboratories allowed the expansion of its imaging facilities and today, in addition to being a busy research department, the Department of Anatomy runs a state of the art microscopy and analysis facility in its Imaging Centre, offering microscopy expertise to other departments and industry.





Anatomy Department relocates to Western Gate Building

In September 2011 under the direction of Professor John Cryan the department relocated its undergraduate teaching to the Western Gate Building. The teaching of Anatomy in UCC’s Windle Building had come to an end with the Department’s move to its new state of the art laboratories in the Western Gate Building.

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Photograph of the last students in the Windle Building Dissecting room September 2011


For thousands of medical and dental students Anatomy teaching had been synonymous with the neo-Gothic Windle building named after Professor Bertram Windle former Chair of Anatomy and President of the then Queen's College Cork. Professor John F. Cryan who recently took up the post of Chair of Anatomy described the move as  "a truly momentous day for the department and for the Medical School in general; it is not just the end of an era but also the beginning of a very exciting episode in the modernisation of the department and discipline in general."    

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Windle Building front, lecture theatre and FLAME sculpture




Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, Western Gate Building

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Western Gate Building new location of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

‌This is a landmark time in the Department’s history as it has recently moved to its new teaching and research facilities in the Western Gateway Building.

This new state of the art facility offers huge potential for further development of teaching and research in the Department. Moreover, changes in medical education and advances in Medical Imaging are changing the landscape of how Anatomy is taught in professional programmes

Photograph of new FLAME laboratory in the Western Gateway Building

The FLAME Laboratory takes its name from the sculpture Flame which was commissioned in recognition of the altruism of those who donate their bodies for medical education and research.  FLAME is an acronym for Facility for Learning Anatomy Morphology and Embryology. FLAME is the title of a piece of specially commissioned sculpture by the late artist Alexandra Wejchert. The sculpture represents the flame of knowledge which leads to the light of understanding.


2016 Windle building changes its Anatomy

  • Windle Building changes its Anatomy

    26 Nov 2016
    Windle Building changes its Anatomy

    Europe’s long-term lending institution, the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a €100 million loan agreement with University College Cork on  Friday 25th November 2016 ensuring the continuation and completion of the transformation of the Windle Building into a state of the art student hub. The Windle Building which had until 2011 been home to the Department of Anatomy, has since the summer begun a seismic transformation into the ‘Student Hub Project’.

    Read more

Heads of Department and Professors of Anatomy 1849-2021




Professor Aideen Sullivan  BSc PhD (Cantab) PG Cert T&L H Ed

Head of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience University College Cork 2021-

Professor Aideen Sullivan, graduated from University College Dublin in 1992 with a BSc in Pharmacology. In 1995, she obtained a PhD in Neuropharmacology from the University of Cambridge, UK, then worked in Imperial College London School of Medicine as a post-doctoral researcher from 1995-1998 on a project funded by the Parkinson's Disease Society. In 1998, she was appointed as Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy at UCC, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2006 and to Professor (Scale 2) in 2014. Professor Aideen Sullivan was appointed Head of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at University College Cork in March 2021. 

IRIS Profile: Professor Aideen Sullivan




Professor John F. Cryan, BSc (Hons), PhD

Professor of Anatomy and Neuroscience University College Cork 2011-

John F. Cryan is Professor & Chair, Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience, University College Cork and serves on the University’s Governing Body.  He is also a Principal Investigator in the APC Microbiome Institute. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and PhD from the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. He was a visiting fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Australia, which was followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA and The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California. He spent four years at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Basel Switzerland, as a Lab Head, Behavioural Pharmacology prior to joining UCC in 2005.

IRIS Profile:Professor John F. Cryan 




Professor Richard Greene, BSc, PhD, MB, BS, MBA, FHEA

Professor of Anatomy University College Cork 2008-2009

Richard Greene graduated from Charing Cross & Westminster Medical School, London as a doctor (with distinction in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics) in 1991. He had previously obtained BSc (First Class) and PhD degrees from the same institution in 1986 and 1989 respectively.

After junior hospital posts in medicine, surgery and psychiatry, he moved to the University of Oxford firstly as a Wellcome Trust Mental Health Research Training Fellow and then as Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow.  



Professor John P. Fraher, MB, BSc, PhD, FRCSEdin, DSc, MSIAI(hon), FAS(Hon), FRSB, MRIA 

Professor of Anatomy University College Cork 1977-2007

John Fraher is Emeritus Professor of Anatomy at University College, Cork. He was the foundation Director of UCC's BioSciences Institute. He took a degree in Medicine from UCC, and was Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at Edinburgh and London Universities, respectively, before taking the Chair at UCC. He is a former Swedish Medical Research Council Fellow and has been visiting professor at the Universities of Arkansas (Wellcome Chair) and Uppsala. He holds a DSc from Edinburgh University, and a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. 




Professor Gerard N. C. Crawford, MA, DM

Professor of Anatomy University College Cork 1973-1977

Gerald Crawford graduated from London University. He worked for a time as a Pathologist in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He was a Lecturer in anatomy at Oxford, and a Fellow of Magdalen College.  in 1973 he was appointed to the Chair of Anatomy at University College, Cork. His research interests were mainly concerned with the development and growth of muscle.   




Professor Michael MacConaill, MA, MD, DSc, MRIA, FLS

Professor of Anatomy University College Cork 1942-1973

Michael Aloysius MacConaill was born on 27 July 1902 in Ballymena, Co. Antrim and was educated at St Mary's School in Belfast. In 1919 he entered Queen's University Belfast Medical School, and completing a B.Sc. in the Anatomy Honours School in 1922. In 1929 he obtained an M.Sc from Queen's University Belfast, and became a demonstrator in Anatomy there. He was awarded the Queen's University Travelling Medical Studentship for 1929-30, which took him to University College, London. He was a lecturer in Anatomy in the Anatomy Department at Sheffield University, and In 1942 he was appointed to the Chair of Anatomy at University College, Cork.  




Professor Denis P. Fitzgerald, BA, MB, BCh, BAO

Professor of Anatomy University College Cork 1909-1942

Denis Patrick Fitzgerald was born in Cork in 1871. He was educated in Cork and obtained degree of BA RUI in 1890 and entered Queen’s College Cork in 1891 as a medical student, here he secured scholarships exhibitions and prizes and qualified MB BCh BAO in 1896. The following year 1897 he became Demonstrator in Anatomy (continuing in this post for ten years) and also House Surgeon to the Cork Eye Ear and Throat Hospital (for two years). In 1907 Professor Windle, the then Professor of Anatomy, appointed Dr Fitzgerald his deputy, making him Lecturer in the Anatomy Department.  




Professor Bertram C. A. Windle, BA, MB, MCh, MA, MD, PhD, LLD, DSc, FRS

Professor of Anatomy Queen's College Cork 1907-1909

Bertrand Windle w as the son of Rev. S.A Windle, BD (Vicar of Market Rasen, Linconshire) and Katherine Sydney, daughter of Admiral Sir Josiah Coghill, Bart., of Co Cork. He was born in 1858 at Mayfield Vicarage. He was educated in Dublin and Repton, Derbyshire and attended Trinity College Dublin where he graduated BA (1879) and MB MCh (1881). Later he obtained the degrees of MA, MD, PhD, LLD, and DSc and became a Fellow of the Royal Society. After graduation Windle lectured Botany at Queen’s College Dublin, and demonstrated Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. more+




Professor John J. Charles, MD, MA, LRCSEd, DSc

Professor of Anatomy and Physiology Queen's College Cork 1875-1907

John J Charles was born in Tyrone in 1845, son of David Charles MD Glasgow. Charles studied at Queen’s College Belfast, graduated MD (1865) MA (1868) LRCSEd (1871) DSc (1882). He studied in Glasgow, London, Edinburgh, Paris, Bonn and Berlin. He lectured on Anatomy in Edinburgh and Belfast and was appointed to the Chair at Queen’s College Cork in 1875. He endowed the College with a fund to provide a Gold Medal to be awarded alternately in Anatomy and Physiology, and since called the , which is still awarded by the University. John J. Charles died in 1912. 




Professor Joseph H. Corbett, MDEd, LRCSI, MD

Professor of Anatomy and Physiology Queen's College Cork 1855-1875

Joseph Henry Corbett was born 1836 and qualified MDEd (1835), LRCSI (1836) and MD Queens University Ireland (1856). He was Lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology at the School of Medicine, Cecilia Street, Dublin, and was Professor of Anatomy and Physiology to the Apothecaries’ Hall of Ireland, where he was considered an elegant and impressive lecturer. Henry Corbett was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in 1845 to Queen's College Cork. 



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Professor Benjamin Alcock, BA, MB, LRCS,I MRCSI

Professor of Anatomy and Physiology Queen's College Cork 1849-1855

Benjamin Alcock the first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Queen's College Cork, was a prominent anatomist who first definitively described the eponymous pudendal (Alcock's) canal. Benjamin Alcock was born in Kilkenny in 1801 and was educated in Dublin studying Anatomy in Trinity College. more+


Heads of Department and Professors of Anatomy 1849-2021

To date there have been ten Professors of Anatomy in University College Cork, dating from 1849 when Benjamin Alcock was appointed first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in Queen's College Cork. Initially the departments of Anatomy and Physiology were one. In 1907 under the Presidency of Bertram Windle the departments were split into separate departments Department of Anatomy and Department of Physiology. Recently under the direction of Professor John F. Cryan the Department of Anatomy has been renamed the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience.  

References and Further Reading

  1. A history of the Cork Medical School: 1849-1949 by Ronan O Rahally. (1949) Cork University Press.
  2. In Memoriam M.A. Mac Conaill.  J.P. Fraher Journal of  Anatomy. (1987), 155, pp. 209-211.
  3. The College, The: History of Queens's University College, Cork.  John A. Murphy. (1995) Cork University Press.
  4. The Cork School of Medicine:  A History. by Professor Denis O'Sullivan (2007) Medical Alumni Association University College Cork.

Benjamin Alcock The first Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in Queen's College Cork. By Ronan O Rahally (1948). Cork University Press

Image of Clarendon Building, Courtsey National Library of Ireland

Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

Anatamaíocht agus Néareolaíocht

Room 2.33, 2nd Floor, Western Gateway Building, University College, Cork, Ireland