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10 Medical Tools You’re Glad Only Exist in Museums

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Breathe a sigh of relief that these gadgets are no longer in your M.D.'s arsenal.

1. The Scarificator, 1874


Source

Show your child this the next time he cries over his booster shots. The Mallam Scarificator temporarily vaccinated against smallpox. All you had to do was dip the four blades into the pustules of a person already infected, then flip the lever to stab the blades into a child’s arm. If he didn’t cry, he could choose between the Otto Von Bismarck or Susan B. Anthony Band-Aids.

2. The Miraculous Chair of Palermo, parturition chair, early 18th century.


Science Museum

It’s not a potty-chair—it’s a birthy-chair. The hole is where the midwife reaches up to help the baby come out. Later incarnations of parturition chairs would include sturdy handles for gripping as well as leg rests. The Miraculous Chair of Palermo indulged in no such frippery, but did provide a religious icon for the mother to bang her head against while praying for unconsciousness.

3. Mercury syringe and field dressings, 1545


The History Blog

The saying goes, “One night with Venus gets you a lifetime with Mercury.” Found onboard the sunken Tudor ship the Mary Rose, this mercury syringe was used to treat sailors with syphilis. Guess what part of the body the needle (filled with toxic mercury) was jabbed into? Yep: right up the ole coxswain.

4. Bloodletting Fleam, 1850


Unnaturalist

To use a fleam, the triangle blade would be pressed into the vein, allowing excess blood to drain out of the body until healthful sanguinity had been restored. By the time this particular fleam was made, bloodletting as a cure-all to balance a person’s “humors” was starting to fall out of fashion. Possibly because it kept killing everyone it was done to.

5. The Prepurex Pregnancy Test Kit, 1980


Science Museum

And now for something from more recent history: This early home pregnancy test was a forerunner of the wonderfully simple pee sticks we know today. This test measured the hormone HCG in urine to detect pregnancy. Simple to operate, it required only the use of antiserum, latex, sampling tubes, a mixing plate, two minutes of gentle rocking, and a Masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

6. Trepanation Kit, 1771


Wellcome Collection

Sometimes the only way to get an epileptic to stop acting so strange was to drill a hole in his head to let the demons out. Trepanation has been in practice since ancient times, employed to cure everything from migraines to bad moods. Neurosurgeons still use a form of it today, though they call it a craniotomy

7. The Utica Crib, 1840s


The Original Institute

The medical staff at the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica found an ingenious solution to the problem of their patients walking, sitting, or moving: The Utica Crib. It would keep especially disagreeable patients restrained, and was often lined with straw for easy clean up. They were mostly abolished from mental hospitals in the early 1900s and replaced with restraints, padded rooms, straitjackets, and lobotomies. Now that co-pay on your Zoloft doesn’t seem so steep, does it?

8. German Spermatorrhoea Ring 1894


Phisick

Angels may not cry when you touch yourself, but you’re going to. Though “spermatorrhoea” technically means involuntary loss of semen, this device wasn’t picky. The male organ was placed inside the inner ring and the teeth were tightened till not quite touching the flaccid and therefore inoffensive member. However, should any engorgement or growth occur, the teeth would bite.

9. Civil War Dental Screw Forceps, 1860s


Phisick

From the website Physick: “A central telescopic screw extends and is held secure with the blades allowing the root to be tapped. Sadly all before the advent of the anesthetic.” Think about that the next time you’re mush-mouthedly complaining about numb cheeks after getting a cavity filled, you pantywaist.

10. Civil War Bone Chain Saw 1860s


Phisick

This peppy little saw could actually save men from war field amputations. It allowed surgeons to wrap the saw around the bone and cut out only the damaged parts, not the whole limb. You’d still likely die of infection, and if you didn’t, the affected body part would be forever stunted, pained, and weakened. Still, ebony handles! Classy.

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James Cameron is Making a Documentary to Reassess the Accuracy of Titanic
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20th Century Fox

While making the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, James Cameron was a stickler for the details. The writer-director wanted his homage to the tragic ocean liner to be as historically accurate as possible, so he organized dives to the site, solicited experts to analyze his script, and modeled the set off photographs and plans from the Titanic's builders. He even recreated the ocean liner’s original furnishings, right down to the light fixtures. Now, 20 years after the film’s release, E! News reports that Cameron will scrutinize the film’s authenticity in an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

Titanic: 20th Anniversary is slated to air in December 2017. It will feature Cameron and a team of experts who, together, will evaluate the film's accuracy using new historical and scientific insights about the ship's fateful sinking on April 15, 1912.

"When I wrote the film, and when I set out to direct it, I wanted every detail to be as accurate as I could make it, and every harrowing moment of the ship's final hours accounted for," Cameron said in a statement. "I was creating a living history; I had to get it right out of respect for the many who died and for their legacy. But did I really get it right? Now, with National Geographic and with the latest research, science, and technology, I'm going to reassess."

It's not the first time Cameron has revisited his Oscar-winning epic; in 2012, the director made some tweaks to the film for its 3-D re-release after receiving some criticism from renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen," Cameron explained. “And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in." So he changed it.

In the case of Titanic: 20th Anniversary, Cameron and his team will give viewers an updated interpretation of the Titanic’s sinking, and reexamine the wreck using new underwater footage, computer-generated simulation, and research. They’ll also scrutinize some of the film’s most famous scenes, and provide biographical context about the filming process.

We’re sure fans, historians, and, of course, Kate and Leo, will approve.

[h/t Mashable]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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