• Surgeons & Surgical Kits

    There’s always a scene in any movie or television show depicting a surgical operation: a nurse or assistant clad in scrubs, enters the room pushing a cart. On the cart lies several delicate instruments, their hard steel glistening under the harsh lights of the theatre. None of the instruments touch each other, and they are… Continue Reading

  • Ear-picks to Q-tips

    Cotton-wool has long been a staple in households as well as in the aural surgeon’s tool kit. For ear ailments, cotton was used in all sorts of ways: soaked in olive oil and inserted into the ear, trimmed and soaked in medicaments to cover a perforated eardrum, and even inserted between rubber to serve as… Continue Reading

  • The Surgeon’s Plan: Tympanic Membrane Perforation

    By the nineteenth century, Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768-1841), surgeon to Guy’s Hospital, outlined his observation that puncture of the tympanic membrane could be effective in draining out collections of fluid in the middle ear, and hence, improve a particular type of deafness. Cooper’s work was inspired in part by his friend Sir Everard Home… Continue Reading

  • The Catheter

    Valsalva’s De aure remained one of the standard treatises on the ear and the Valsalva maneuver gained popularity among physicians and surgeons for diagnosing sources of blockages in the ear. The maneuver, however, contained little therapeutic benefits for cases in which there weren’t blockages in the tube or associated parts of the ear; moreover, it… Continue Reading

  • Diagnostic Instruments & Surgical Authority

    On 29 October 1839 the Bankruptcy Register listed John Harrison Curtis as a “bookseller.” By 1841, Curtis lost his patrons and his career was pretty much in shambles and his Dispensary was sold to the aurist William Harvey. The invention of the cephaloscope and the publication of his treatise on the instrument were aimed as… Continue Reading

  • Acoustic Instruments

    I’ve pretty much been chained to my desk these days, struggling to write the most difficult chapter of my dissertation, which broadly focuses on the historiography of medical specialties and professionalization. The chapter also provides an analysis of how diagnostic instruments (and other medical technologies) served as a nexus for the crystallization of specialist medical… Continue Reading

  • Atomic Age Artifacts

    A group of history students at the University of Ottawa prepared a Prezi based on their research in the collections at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, under the supervision of David Pantalony. This is an excellent way to integrate artifacts into the study of history, encouraging group work and fun at the same time!… Continue Reading

  • UTSIC Website Active!

    I’m pleased to announce that the University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection Website is now active! The first post is an essay, “A Short History of the University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection, written by Erich Weidenhammer (IHPST, University of Toronto) & Michael Da Silva (University of Toronto Faculty of Law). The post is a reprint of… Continue Reading