From trepanning to transplants, there is no question that medicine has evolved over the last few centuries. It is a constant journey of trial and error and some discoveries, like Alexander Fleming’s wonder drug penicillin, have advanced mankind forever. However the same cannot be said for all discoveries and we are thankful that some have been lost to the pages of history.
We take a look back at some of the most bizarre, dangerous and generally pointless medical devices of the past….
1. The Smoke Canceler
With the world waking up to the fact smoking was bad for you in the mid-20th Century, a clever little invention started making the rounds called the Smoke Canceler. This is exactly as it says on the tin this product and was meant as a reassuring device to protect consumers. Now, you obviously don’t need me to tell you it didn’t work. You were just as likely to be hit with the threat of cancer whether you purchased a Canceler or not.
2. Chamlee’s cancer cure
Even though this doesn’t really fall into the ‘medical device’ category, it does fall into the ‘I can’t believe this existed’ category. Without regulations regarding advertising, physicians were permitted to make any claim, no matter how grandiose. Cancer was, and remains, the most feared condition and one ‘medical men’ in the early 20th Century exploited to the max.
Just note the claim ‘ANY LUMP IN WOMAN’S BREAST IS CANCER’ which is just the epitome of scaremongering to turn an easy profit. My bet is that NOBODY saw that £1000…
3. Zello = Punkt nose straightener
As plastic surgery was rarely available, this simple alternative was marketed to those concerned about their appearance.
Whether you are suffering from the Kartoffel or the Haken, the Zello works on all shapes and sizes.
4. Adolescent Onanism Device
For those not in the know, Onanism is another term for masturbation. The term is derived from Genesis when Judah directed that his son Onan have intercourse with the widow of his brother Er, as required by the law at the time. However, believe it or not this device hails from the early 20th century when “spermatorrhea”, or excessive ejaculation, was thought to be detrimental to your health.
The only thing worse than the general appearance of this device is knowing it came in a size for adolescents. This means parents were having uncomfortably awkward conversations with their teens about the sins of masturbation, and just when they thought it was over, out Pops whips one of these bad boys and your life is over.
This French adult onanism belt was likely used on institutionalized patients since it comes with an attached lock. Handy.
5. Spermatorrhoea Ring (ca. 1900)
Obviously nocturnal spermatorrhea was a big problem in the Victorian era as it weakened the system and resulted in numerous other conditions including hair loss, blindness, and early aging. The device was placed around the wearers manhood and should they have an erection, the spike would wake him rather abruptly. Frankly, a night in one of these should do the trick as it is highly unlikely you will wake up with a manhood at all.
6. Artificial Leech (1800s)
Bloodletting with leeches was such a popular treatment for a range of medical conditions that an artificial leech was invented in 1840 and was used frequently in eye and ear surgery. The rotating blades would cut a wound in the patient’s skin, while the cylinder would be used to produce a vacuum that sucked up the blood.
If you read the above without wincing at ‘used frequently in EYE surgery’ you have a stronger stomach that I.
7. Skull Saw (1830s-60s)
This one is pretty self explanatory. The saw is hand-cranked so you know it wont be a steady job.
8. Tonsil Guillotine (1860s)
This method of removing tonsils worked much like a traditional guillotine, slicing off the infected tonsils. This handy “double guillotine” design meant that both tonsils could be removed at the same time. Naturally, tonsil guillotines were replaced by forceps and scalpels in the early 20th century due to the high rate of hemorrhaging and the imprecise nature of the device, which often left tonsil remnants in the mouth.
9. Vaginal speculum
Vaginal speculum’s do still exisit today however they are much less pointly and not made from rusty bronze. If you haven’t guessed, a speculum (Latin for “mirror”; plural specula or speculums) is a medical tool for investigating body orifices. The one below is said to be from Pompeii, 199BC-79AD.
10. “Vibra-Finger” gum massager
I wonder how many people actually used this for its intended purpose?
While technically a type of chain saw, this medical instrument, invented by Bernard Heine around 1830, wasn’t used to cut down trees. The osteotome was initially used in trepanning. The sharp spike was driven into the patient’s skull to hold the instrument in place, then the doctor cranked the handle to turn the saw-toothed blade. The osteotome was considered superior to a reciprocating saw or hammer and chisel when it came to getting through human bone without splintering or damaging nearby tissue. Later variations made the tool useful in arm and leg amputations and dental surgeries.
Basically, can you imagine waking up in hospital with a surgeon pointing one of these at you…
12. Electrical Impotence Cures
Men have been desperately searching for solutions to their malfunctioning members since the dawn of time, so thank goodness for the late 19th century and the invention of electricity.
Yep you heard me right, the solution to your problem lies in a marvellous new technology which will quite literally put the ‘spark’ back into your love life.
Just take a look at the advertisements…
13. A Portable Respirator for Polio
And finally, this space age device was created in 1955 as a portable respirator for polio victims. Worn like a blouse, the respirator would be plugged into an electrical outlet or powered by a battery.
Can you imagine popping over to Joan’s house for a cuppa while she’s all plugged in, it reminds me of both a washing machine and a scene from Alien.