• King Goa Chair

    The instrument maker F.C. Rein created this acoustic throne for King John VI of Portugal (also called King Goa VI). According to the Deafness in Disguise Exhibit, King John VI used the throne from about 1819 until his death in 1826, while ruling from Brazil. The King’s chair was equipped with a large receiving apparatus… Continue Reading

  • Sound the Trumpets

    Curtis’ Dispensary aimed to not only provide treatment for the poor and destitute populations, but also to supply acoustic instruments to those with severe hearing loss irremediable by medical treatments. Curtis was prolific in instrument design; taking into account new theories on sound and his own understanding of the physiology of the ear, he invented… Continue Reading

  • Fitting For Health

    In September, I’ll be in Paris, presenting at what is sure to be an amazing conference. The “Fitting for Health: The Economy of Medical Technology in Europe and its Colonies, 1600-1850,” will be held on 2-3 September at the École normale supérieure and Académie nationale de médecine. Here is the conference description: Is the history… Continue Reading


    In this blog post, I want to share one of the projects I’ve been involved with: The University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection (UTSIC), a volunteer project at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, to catalogue, collect, and maintain all of the university’s scientific instruments collection. Several graduate students who… Continue Reading

  • The Cephaloscope

    In a previous post, I outlined how social attitudes determined the acceptance and shaping of instruments, particularly medical instruments. John Harrison Curtis (1778-1856) was another medical practitioner who followed the early nineteenth century trend in aural surgery to introduce new instruments and innovations for improving medical diagnosis and surgical treatment of deafness and ear diseases.… Continue Reading

  • Exploring Instruments: “Deafness in Disguise” Collection

    In 1993, historian A.J. Turner remarked that “[a]though studying instruments as part of science is an old pursuit, writing the history of scientific instruments is new.” Writing on the history of medical instruments is even newer, for since the 1990s, there has been a remarkable explosion of scholarship on the history of medical instrumentation. But… Continue Reading