Antique and Historical Medical and Scientific Equipment

Modern science as it's known today has evolved significantly since the early days of civilization, when people were just beginning to learn about these subjects. Tools and materials were primitive in ancient eras, but people worked to make groundbreaking strides as they sought to understand the world around them. Ancient scientists and medical practitioners pioneered concepts that could be brilliant or horribly misguided, but both their successes and their missteps helped pave the way for today's scientists to develop better theories, techniques, and technologies.

People living around the world thousands of years ago shared a thirst for knowledge and a desire to master the natural world. As they studied the world around them, ancient people devised and created tools to help them with their work. These instruments are often amazingly intricate, displaying the skill of the craftsmen who created them. Scientific instruments have been found from ancient Egypt and Rome, western Asia, the European Renaissance, and ancient China. Even the colonial American period was a time of discovery, thanks to the contributions of great minds such as Benjamin Franklin.

Physicians in ancient times understood some principles of how to promote good health. They knew it was important to clean wounds carefully to avoid infection, and they understood that lancing and draining wounds could help with healing. Surgery may have been rudimentary in comparison to how it's performed today, but some of their surgical techniques were quite advanced. Surgeons in ancient Rome were performing cataract surgeries, for instance, and they understood the importance of cleanliness during surgery. Some doctors in ancient eras also understood the importance of diet and the surrounding environment on overall health.

Exploration and excavation has led to discoveries of impressive surgeries performed thousands of years ago. Archaeologists have even found engraved tablets that depict people using surgical instruments that are similar to tools used by modern-day surgeons, including scalpels, forceps, needles, and catheters. One surgical procedure common during ancient times is known as trepanation. This procedure involves drilling a hole in the skull to alleviate pressure. Scientists have studied the remains of ancient patients to learn how successful the procedure was, and they found that some patients died quickly, but others survived and experienced a full recovery. Other excavations have found evidence of ancient dental fillings.

Many ancient medical techniques thought to be effective at the time are no longer in use today. For example, doctors in ancient times thought that illness was caused by "bad blood." Thus, the practice of bloodletting was common, which involved cutting open a vein and draining out blood. Sometimes, doctors also used leeches for bloodletting. Of course, accidental death from loss of too much blood was an unfortunate result of this procedure on some occasions.

The use of mercury as a medicine was also common in ancient Greece, Persia, and China. Some doctors used mercury as an elixir, while others used it as a topical ointment. Using mercury to treat syphilis was also popular. It also wasn't unheard of for doctors to use ingredients such as dead mice, moldy bread, and horse saliva as they concocted medicines for some maladies. Various types of animal dung were also used medicinally in ancient Egypt.

Some ancient treatments and techniques are still in use today. For example, the use of maggots to clean infected tissue is thought to have originated with Native Americans, but some surgeons today resort to maggots when a large surface area is involved. Ancient Egyptian doctors realized that the best way to access the brain in some cases was through the nasal passages, and today, some surgeons still use this technique to remove brain tumors. And doctors in ancient China discovered that a fecal transplant can be an effective way to change the properties of gut bacteria, which can promote healing. Physicians today recognize the effectiveness of this principle, and it's used to treat C. difficile, which causes cramping, fever, and diarrhea.

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