Uncovering our medical instruments – British Science Week 2017

In June 2016 we started an exciting project to digitise items from our museum collection. The project, which has been kindly funded by Museums Galleries Scotland, is sadly nearly at an end, so to celebrate all the amazing work that has been done we’re hosting a special drop-in session as part of British Science Week.

The drop-in session will give visitors the opportunity to view some items from our collection, learn about how they were used, take a look at the processes involved in their digitisation, and maybe take a few photos too!

The drop-in session takes place on Wednesday, 15th March 2017 from 1pm – 3pm. No need to book – just pop in to the College!

Horsley's Skull Trephine

Horsley’s Skull Trephine

So far, our digitisation intern has photograph over 300 items including our collection of 18th/19th century stethoscopes, apothecary cabinets, the surgical instruments of William Beatty (surgeon on board HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar), early 19th century x-ray tubes, Victorian quackery gadgets, and many other fascinating surgical instruments.

Surgical Instruments of William Beatty

Surgical Instruments of William Beatty

The collection dates back to the mid 1700s – the earliest item we have is a trephine set – and covers all areas of medicine, surgery and dentistry. You can read a little bit more about some of the items we’ve digitised and get updates on the project on our blog.

For more information on British Science Week 2017 please visit: https://www.britishscienceweek.org/

Flyer for our British Science Week event

Flyer for our British Science Week event

Maister Peter Lowe and Glasgow

Our first event of 2017 will be an informal gathering in College Hall on Thursday 19th January to hear our Honorary Librarian, Mr Roy Miller, discuss our founder Maister Peter Lowe and the town of Glasgow, c1599.

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We will hear about the background of this intriguing man, his arrival in Glasgow from France in the 1590s, and what compelled him to petition King James VI to set up what became the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1599. Lowe’s education and surgical training in France, and his writings on the practice of surgery, played a key role in how medicine and surgery developed in Glasgow at this early stage.

The event will take place in our College Hall, which features portraits of our founding members and of James VI. In addition, there will be a pop-up display of historical collections relating to our early history, for example our first Minute Book (1602 – 1688), rare copies of Peter Lowe’s 16th century surgical texts, and a pair of gloves belonging to the founder.

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Detail of first College Minute Book, summarising 1599 Charter (1602)

Our event is part of St Mungo Festival, now in its ninth year, which celebrates the life of St Kentigern, better known as St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow. Find out more about the Festival and its programme of events at the St Mungo Festival Facebook page.

Here are the details of the event:

Date – Thursday 19th January 2017

Time – 12.30 – 1.30 with refreshments served afterwards

Venue – Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 232-242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow G2 5RJ

To book – Email library@rcpsg.ac.uk or phone 0141 221 6072. This is a free event but places are limited.

The Goodall Symposium: Celebrating 200 years of the stethoscope

Thursday, 16th June 2016. 6:30-9:00pm

Join us for an evening of talks celebrating the 200th anniversary of the invention of the stethoscope. Discover how techniques for listening to the heart have developed from the very first stethoscope invented in 1816 to ‘Harvey’, the cardiopulmonary patient simulator.

Programme for the evening:

6:30pm – Registration and light refreshments
7:00pm – How Laennec invented the stethoscope, Mr Roy Miller FRCS(Glasg), Honorary Librarian
7:20pm – How I was taught cardiology, Professor Ross Lorimer FRCP(Glasg)
7:45pm – Tea/coffee break
8:00pm – The Goodall Memorial Lecture: From Laennec to ‘Harvey’, Professor Stuart Pringle, Consultant Cardiologist Perth Royal Infirmary

There will also be the chance to see our special exhibition celebrating the stethoscope.

Laennec stethoscope

A Laennec style monaural stethoscope made from wood c1820.

The event is free to attend but please book in advance for catering purposes. Contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072.

Our Goodall Symposium is part of the Glasgow Science Festival 2016.

What led Laennec to invent the wooden stethoscope?

This year our annual Goodall Symposium (16th June 2016) will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the invention of the first stethoscope. We’ll be taking a look at the origins of the stethoscope and how the methods and technologies for listening to the heart have developed over the last 200 years. In this blog our Honorary Librarian, Mr Roy Miller discusses why the stethoscope was invented.

Laennec stethoscope

Made of wood and brass, this is one of the original stethoscopes belonging to Laennec.
Image from: Science Museum London / Science and Society Picture Library

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 by French physician, René Théophile Hyacinthe Laennec. While a physician in Paris, Laennec was examining a woman with an apparent heart condition and found that he was unable to use hand or ear to examine the patient without embarrassment. He records the event thus:-

“In 1816 I was consulted by a young woman labouring under general symptoms of diseased heart, and in whose case percussion and the application of the hand were of little avail on account of the great degree of fatness. The other method just mentioned [the application of the ear directly to the chest] being rendered inadmissable by the age and sex of the patient, I happened to recollect a simple and well-known fact in acoustics, and fancied, at the same time, that it may be turned to some use on the present occasion. The fact I allude to is the augmented impression of sound when conveyed through certain solid bodies – as when we hear the scratch of a pin at one end of a piece of wood, on applying the ear to the other. Immediately, on this suggestion, I rolled a quire of paper (24 sheets) into a kind of cylinder and applied one end of it to the region of the heart and the other to my ear, and was not a little surprised that I could thereby perceive the action of the heart in a manner much more clear and distinct than I had ever been able to do by the immediate application of the ear.”1

Laennec soon replaced the rolled up paper cylinder with a hollow wooden tube. This had a small hole at one end and, at the other, a conical hollow. A plug fitted into the hollow to allow the physician to listen to the sounds of the heart. When removed, the physician could listen to the sounds of the lungs. Unlike its modern equivalents it was designed to be listened to through only a single ear so it did not have the familiar Y-shaped double earpiece. The original stethoscope could also be unscrewed in the middle for carrying in the pocket.

Illustration from De l' auscultation mediate (1819) by Laennec showing his design for a wooden stethoscope.

Illustration from De l’ auscultation mediate (1819) by Laennec showing his design for a wooden stethoscope.

In the 1820s the Glasgow Medical Journal reported on the introduction of the stethoscope to Glasgow medicine, pointing out that the tool was at first “suspected, ridiculed, and sometimes abused as a piece of pompous quackery.” By the late 1820s such suspicions were dismissed as use of the stethoscope grew. By the 1850s, the stethoscope had become one of the doctor’s most vital tools.

The Goodall Symposium takes place in the College on the 16th June 2016 @ 6:30pm. It’s free to attend but please book your place for catering purposes – please contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072. You’ll also have the chance to see our latest exhibition which focuses on the development of the stethoscope over the years.

This years Goodall Symposium is part of the Glasgow Science Festival 2016.

1. Laennec RTH. De l’’auscultation mediate. Paris : Chez J.-A. Brosson et J.-S. Chaudé, 1819

Veedee Massager, c1903

This week we are displaying a rarely seen item from our collections, the Veedee Massager from c1903. The Massager comes in a purple velvet-lined box, with attachments (including cup and ball), polishing cloth and oil.

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Veedee Massager and polishing cloth, c1903 (RCPSG)

 

There is a handy instruction booklet – The Veedee and How To Use It which gives detailed guidance on how the instrument can cure or relieve a wide range of conditions, from cold and headache, to digestion problems and hysteria. The booklet informs us that it can be used for “curative vibration, vibratory massage, nerve stimulation and blood circulation.”

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The Veedee and How to Use It (RCPSG)

 

There are also chapters that claim it can be used to enhance beauty, treating baldness, double chins and wrinkles.

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From The Veedee and How to Use It (RCPSG)

 

The Veedee was widely advertised between 1900 and 1915, during which time there was a craze for vibration therapies and circulation stimulators. We also have in our collections an example of Dr Macaura’s Blood Circulator (also known as Macaura’s Pulsocon), from the early 1900s. It was claimed to cure a range of conditions, for example heart disease, deafness, paralysis and polio.

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The Veedee Massager pop-up display in RCPSG Library

 

Our Veedee Massager was manufactured in Germany and distributed by The Veedee Co., 96 Southwark Street, London. It was originally purchased from J. C. Pottage, photographic chemist and optician, Edinburgh, as an early treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Festival of Museums 2016 – Glasgow’s Marvellous Medicine

We’re really looking forward to taking part in Festival of Museums again and this year we’ll be trying something a little bit different! We’ll be transforming our beautiful College Hall into a pop-up museum showcasing Glasgow’s amazing contributions to the world of medicine (antiseptic surgery, brain tumour operations, x-ray units and so much more all have connections to our city).

Ink drawing of College founder Peter Lowe

Scottish surgeon, Peter Lowe – Founder of our College in 1599 and author of the first general surgical text to be written in English.

There’ll be lots of interesting items on display including an apothecary’s cabinet filled with potions, some amazing rare books and some very gruesome looking surgical instruments. There’ll also be the chance to meet some famous faces from Glasgow’s medical past including Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgery, Scottish surgeon and founder of our College in 1599, Maister Peter Lowe, nurse Rebecca Strong and even King James VI!

Lots of fun for all the family!

Saturday, 14th May 2016. Open 10am-4pm

For more information on all the other amazing events taking places as part of Festival of Museums 2016 please visit www.festivalofmuseums.com.

Events and Exhibitions Spring/Summer 2016

Take a look at the exciting events and exhibitions we’ve got planned for the next few months! We’ve got lots of interesting things planned including our Festival of Museums event on the 14th May which is all about the marvellous medicine of Glasgow, our Goodall Symposium celebrating 200 years since the invention of the stethoscope, and our annual Gardeners Lecture.

events and exhibitions

Click on the image to download a copy of our events and exhibitions leaflet (7MB).

And don’t forget… The library and our exhibition space are open to the public on Monday afternoons, 2-5pm (excluding bank holidays).