20 Fascinating Medical Instruments of Yore

  • You'd certainly have to 'open wide' for these 17th century Italian dental forceps.

  • Although only invented in the early 19th century, stethoscope design came a long way in a short time, as you can see by this stethoscope dated to 1858.

  • And here it is, a version of the first stethoscope, invented by René Laennec (1781-1826) in 1816. The particular stethoscope belonged to Dr. Paul Gachet (1828-1919) who was treating Vincent Van Gogh when he committed suicide.

  • It took until the 1920s for blood pressure measures to become a staple of the health check-up, making this late 19th century sphygmomanometer ahead of its time. It worked by applying force to the skin over an artery until the pulse disappeared.

  • It looks like a blunt sword but this device was used in the 19th century to remove bullets.

  • This collapsible 19th century ear trumpet is one of the earliest hearing aid devices invented. As these devices became more socially accepted, design took on much more elaborate forms.

  • Surgical instruments from the 16th and 17th century. <br> Left row: lithotomy dilator, 16th century; dental forceps; trepan; dental forceps. <br> Right row: double-bladed bistoury; forceps for extracting arrow head; bullet extractor. Bottom: surgical saw.

  • Enema syringes were widely used until the 1850s. This particular model was made by Arnold & Sons, a prominent medical manufacturer of the late 19th, early 20th century, in London.

  • Made between 1875-1885 by the french makers Charrière, Collin and Gentile, this nifty device combined forceps and a saw for bone surgery.

  • Now taking it all the way back to ancient times, these are some examples of Greco-Roman surgical instruments developed for the battlefield.

  • Leather and steel leg caliper designed for a Victorian child.

  • When faced with apprehensive patients a little bit of imagination can go a long way; such as the inspired idea to call this 1980s MRI helmet a 'Jedi helmet'. Who doesn't want to wear a Jedi helmet?

  • This pill cutter was used by pharmacists to equally divide drugs in the 18th century. Reports from the time vary on it's efficacy as a hair comb.

  • With its well formed joints and leather laced straps, the owner of this 19th century prosthetic leg was likely of the upper crust.

  • This ornate addition to the carpenter's tool set was actually used to drill holes in skulls, not wood. This particular model has been traced back to 18th century Germany.

  • There's nothing warm and friendly about this chainsaw skull saw used to remove bone fragments. Note the shoulder prop for steadying oneself, which probably provided surgeons with a decent workout.

  • If Tim Burton made prosthetic limbs...This arm and hand is dated circa 1890 and is quite beautiful.

  • This particular syringe set belonged to none other than Sir Frederick Treves (1853-1923), who counted Joseph Merrick as one of his patients, AKA 'Elephant Man'.

  • Many medical techniques have changed drastically but the method of the tourniquet has remained much the same for centuries. This particular bronze tourniquet is coated with leather and even has engravings. It comes from Roman Empire times.

  • No small amount of artistry went into this artificial hand. Made of wood and metal wrist plates, a leather glove is placed on top to look more realistic.

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In the world of medicine, innovation is a constant. In fact, looking back at advances over the last few centuries and examining the changes that have occurred, there can be no greater barometer for how far we've come, than in the field of medicine. So, peruse this collection of actual medical instruments of yesteryear  and be thankful that we live in 2016, not 1856. 

Image credits: wellcomeimages.org.

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

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