John Snow Chloroform Mask

We have a replica of a John Snow Chloroform mask in our History of Medicine Collection.

John Snow (1813-58) was the first specialist anaesthetist in Britain. He originally described his inhaler in 1847. The profile of both Snow and anaesthesia was heightened when Queen Victoria was given chloroform by John Snow during the birth of her son Leopold in 1853. In this inhaler, one canister was used for cold water and the other for chloroform.

A brass face mask lined with velvet was attached to the end of the flexible tube so the patient could inhale the anaesthetic vapours.


19th Century Wooden Stethoscope

We have two 19th century wooden stethoscopes in our History of Medicine Collection. 

The stethoscope was invented in France in 1816 by René Laennec at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris. It consisted of a wooden tube. Laennec invented the stethoscope because he didn't feel comfortable placing his ear directly onto a woman's chest to listen to her heart.

In 1851, Irish physician Arthur Leared invented a two-eared stethoscope, and in 1852, George Philip Cammann perfected the design of the stethoscope instrument that used both ears for commercial production, and this has become the standard ever since. 


Patent Medicine: Laxative Liver Syrup

We have this bottle and casing of Laxative Liver Syrup in our History of Medicine Collection. 

It is a tall, amber, hand-blown cork to bottle, embossed in three panels "The Chattanooga Medicine Company / Chattanooga, Tenn. / St.Louis, Mo.", along with full contents. The original label on reverse is missing, with small remnants left.

The box reads "Thedford's / Velvo / Or / Laxative / Liver / Syrup / Sole Proprietors / The Chattanooga Medicine Co. / Chattanooga, Tenn. / St. Louis, Mo.", along with a list of symptoms this remedy is recommended for. The side panels contain information in German and Swedish.

This product was a patent medicine and dates to the early 1900s. Patent medicines were sold without prescription. They often made grandiose claims about their efficacy, with a single medicine able to cure everything from a stomach ache to rheumatism.

There are no ingredients listed on the label, apart from the title. Patent medicines often contained a range of products, including morphine, cocaine, alcohol, and opium– often more than one at the same time. The phrase “snake oil salesman” came from a patent medicine, “Stanley’s Snake Oil”, which contained no snakes but did have turpentine and camphor.

Listen to Lori Loeb, History Professor at the University of Toronto, talk about patent medicine here:


19th Century Prosthetic Leg

We have a 19th Century 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. Amongst other inventions, he developed an above-the-knee device that consisted of a kneeling peg leg and foot in a fixed position, adjustable harness and knee lock control.

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

 


Surgical Saw

We have a surgical saw stamped "H.Disston, Philadelphia" in our History of Medicine Collection.

Henry Disston started selling saws in 1840 from a rented basement in Philadelphia. He built his company into the largest manufacturer of saws in the world. Disston was an innovative manufacturer and marketer, leading the way with products other companies tried to imitate. The saws' consistently high quality kept the company strong for another three generations after Henry Disston's death.

This type of saw is listed in the Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia as an Amputation Knife.

In the nineteenth century, the most common treatment for severe limb injury was amputation. In the days before antisepsis and antibiotics, the mortality from amputation was high.

 


Patent Medicine: Syrup of Tar and Wild Cherry

We have this bottle and casing of Dr. A. Boschee's Syrup of Tar and Wild Cherry in our History of Medicine Collection.

This product was a patent medicine and dates to the late 1800s. Patent medicines were sold without prescription. They often made grandiose claims about their efficacy, with a single medicine able to cure everything from a stomach ache to rheumatism.

There are no ingredients listed on the label, apart from the title. Patent medicines often contained a range of products, including morphine, cocaine, alcohol, and opium– often more than one at the same time. The phrase “snake oil salesman” came from a patent medicine, “Stanley’s Snake Oil”, which contained no snakes but did have turpentine and camphor.

Listen to Lori Loeb, History Professor at the University of Toronto, talk about patent medicine here:


Victorian Water Pump

We have a Victorian Water Pump in our History of Medicine Collection.

Victorian houses did not have running water and toilets. Up to 100 houses might share an outdoor pump to get their water. The water from the pump was often polluted.

In 1854, there was a cholera outbreak in London, and many people became ill and died. John Snow was an anaesthetist and physican who had studied cholera in South London in 1848-9. He developed the theory that the disease was linked with drinking polluted water. At first, medical professionals and the public were reluctant to accept this idea, so he spoke to locals and used hospital and public records to gather data. He wrote:

“Within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days… As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.”

He plotted cholera cases against a geographical grid, creating an informational chart to prove his point.. He eventually convinced the Soho Parish Council to remove the pump’s handle, which prevented further use of water from the pump.

Listen to Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid UK, talk about the water pump here: