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Model of a cat to demonstrate reflexes, United Kingdom, 1940-1980

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The role of nervous reflexes was demonstrated using this wooden cat, whose joints are articulated and eyes much enlarged. It is believed to have been made by British physiologist Sir Charles Sherrington (1857-1952), who was a Professor of Physiology at the University of Liverpool for 16 years. He undertook neurological research on animals and his contributions helped understand the nervous system. The cat model had various owners. It was finally given to Dr Thelma Williams of St George’s College Medical School, London, by respiratory physiologist John Widdicombe. Dr Williams donated it to the Science Museum’s collections. Animal experimentation for scientific and medical research remains controversial. One main argument is whether the benefits of animal testing outweigh the moral issues. The first organised anti-animal experiments or anti-vivisection movements were at their peak in Britain in the 1870s and 1880s. They led to tighter restrictions on who could perform experiments.

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    Techniques and Technologies:


    Glossary: physiology

    The science of the functioning of living organisms and their component parts.

    Glossary: cat

    No description.

    Glossary: model - representation

    Use for a scaled representation of an object or structure, usually three-dimensional. The item is often idealised or modified to make it conceptually easier to understand.

    Glossary: vivisection

    The dissection of a live animal for experimental research.

    Glossary: reflexes

    No description.