1956 NHS Maternity Booklet

We have a 1956 National Health Service Booklet in the Twentieth Century Cabinet of our History of Medicine Collection.

The National Health Service was launched in 1948 by the Minister of Health at the time, Aneurin Bevan. Before then, people were expected to pay for their treatment by doctors, but the creation of the NHS meant that universal healthcare, free at the point of delivery, was available. People received leaflets telling them how it would operate and what they were entitled to.

This leaflet, shortly after the creation of the NHS, offers guidance to new mothers on how to access health services, and how to look after themselves and their babies. Assistance with vitamins and milk tokens are both offered.


Cigarette Packaging

We have a range of cigarette packing in from different decades in our History of Medicine Collection.

In 1949, Richard Doll, a researcher working for the Medical Research Council, and Bradford Hill, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene, began looking at lung cancer patients in London hospitals. The patients were asked about family history, diet and previous diseases. In 649 cases of lung cancer, two were non-smokers. Doll immediately gave up his own five cigarettes a day habit.

Doll and Hill extended their research to Cambridge, Bristol and Leeds and, after speaking to some 5,000 people, found the same results. In 1951, the researchers wrote to 59,600 doctors and asked about their smoking habits. They kept a watch on the doctors' health and published the results in 1954.

Porcelain Bed Pan

This porcelain bed pan is part of our History of Medicine Collection. 

Alexander Fleming was the first scientist to observe penicillin mould in the 1920s. 

In 1940, Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley carried out the very first test on eight mice: four received penicillin (and survived following exposure to germs) and the four who did not receive penicillin died.

During the war, resources were sparse. Biscuit tins and bed pans like this one were among the makeshift lab equipment used to collect the mould.

Listen to Roger Highfield, Science Director of the Science Museum Group, and professor of Public Engagement at the Dunn School, University of Oxford, talk about the bed pan here:


1970s Prosthetic Leg

We have a 1970s-era Endolite prosthetic leg in our History of Medicine Collection. 

The earliest example of a prosthesis ever discovered is a big toe, belonging to a noblewoman in Egypt and dated to between 950-710 B.C.

In 1529, French surgeon Ambroise Pare (1510-1590) introduced amputation as a lifesaving measure in medicine. Soon after, Pare started developing prosthetic limbs.

In 1975, Ysidro M. Martinez made a significant breakthrough that avoided some of the problems associated with conventional artificial limbs. His prosthetic leg was light in weight to help with movement and reduce friction. The foot was also much shorter, which reduced friction and pressure.

Listen to Max Ortiz, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Head of the Bionics Research Unit at Chalmers University of Technology, here: