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Expert Voices

10 Weird and Terrifying Medical Instruments from the Past

Weird and terrifying

German cranial brace and bit, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

18th century German cranial brace and bit to create holes in the skulls. (Image credit: Wellcome Library.)

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

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 favourites.

French brass syringe

French brass syringe, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

17th century French brass syringe (Image credit: Science Museum, London.)

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

Ivory enema syringe

Ivory enema syringe, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

18th century Sri Lankan Ivory enema syringe (Image credit: Science Museum, London.)

18th century Sri Lankan Ivory enema syringe

Japanese self-administering enema syringe with a piston and reservoir

Japanese self-administering enema syringe with a piston and reservoir, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

19th century Japanese self-administering enema syringe with a piston and reservoir (Image credit: Science Museum, London.)

19th century Japanese self-administering enema syringe with a piston and reservoir

Surgical instruments

Surgical instruments, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

16th Century surgical instruments (Image credit: Wellcome Library.)

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.

Humiliation and punishment

Belgian Iron mask, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

The Belgian Iron "scolds bridle" maks was used to publicly humiliate in the 1550s. (Image credit: Wellcome Library, London.)

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.

Investigations

Jedi helmets, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

1980s "Jedi" helmets used during MRIs (Image credit: Science Museum, London.)

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.

Prostethic limbs

Prostethic limbs, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

A steel hand and forearm (Image credit: Wellcome Library, London.)

There is also this steampunk steel hand and forearm with brass wrist mountings from 1890.

Eyes

A model eye, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

Model eye by W. and S. Jones, London, 1840-1900 (Image credit: Wellcome Library, London.)

And finally how about the slightly disturbing model eye

The original eye pad

Box of eyeballs, weird medical instruments, historical medicine

Box of eyeballs from 1900 (Image credit: Wellcome Library, London.)

…to go alongside the original eye pad

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.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.

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