The UK’s largest medical charity, the Wellcome Trust, has made its vast database of images freely available to all. The collection holds photos of hundreds of years worth of medicine, instruments and scientific culture.
For me, the progress of science best described by advances in medicine and the instruments used to practice it. Here is a list of a few of my favorites.
Nothing quite says medicine like a syringe. And this collection has plenty, from the 17th century brass or 18th century ivory enema syringes, to the 20th century’s glass and stainless steel ones, all clearly made to last much longer than our modern disposable versions.
17th century French brass syringe
18th century Sri Lankan Ivory enema syringe
19th century Japanese self-administering enema syringe with a piston and reservoir
Then there are the surgical instruments, like the 16th century tools below. Those on the right include a double-bladed knife, a forceps for extracting arrow head and a bullet extractor.
Others like the Belgian Iron “scolds bridle” mask from the 1550s that was used to publicly humiliate and punish, mainly women, speaking out against authority, nagging, brawling with neighbours, blaspheming or lying, are just horrible inventions.
More preferable are the “Jedi” helmets from the 1980s, used in conjunction with MRI scanners to investigate the brain without having to crack open the cranium. The word “Jedi” was used to ensure that children put it on without too much fuss.
There is also this steampunk steel hand and forearm with brass wrist mountings from 1890.
And finally how about the slightly disturbing model eye…
…to go alongside the original eye pad
By Mark Lorch, University of Hull
Mark Lorch does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.