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Dr Gillespie’s nautical absence

musket ball

The fatal shot (Science Museum, London)

At around 1.15 pm, on 21st October 1805, a small projectile (shown in the above engraving), fired at a range of about 50ft, passed into Admiral Horatio Nelson’s left shoulder and, ricocheting against bone, tore a path through his upper body before passing into his lower back.  The musket ball took with it fragments of the his coat and its epaulette which remained attached after it came to rest.

Nelson died a few hours later as the Battle of Trafalgar drew to a close, and after prolonged preservation, in first brandy and then distilled wine, and after much public procession and fanfare, his body was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral on the 9th January 1806.

invitation

The invitation (Science Museum, London)

Here is an invitation to the funeral from our collections.  The recipient was Dr Leonard Gillespie, “Physician to Lord Nelson”.  Indeed Gillespie had actually been assigned to the post of Physician-General to the Fleet by Nelson whilst abroad HMS Victory – the ship he was officially attached to.  But while Nelson was attended by the Victory’s surgeon William Beatty on that fatal day, where was Gillespie?

tourniquet

Dr Gillespie's tourniquet, carried on HMS Victory (Science Museum, London)

Dr Gillespie had overseen an enlightened approach to on-board health, which just prior to Trafalgar he described as “unexampled perhaps in any squadron heretofore employed on a foreign station”.  He had also written an influential pamphlet on the Preservation of the Health of Seamen, which put particular emphasis on a good diet, but in October 1805 Gillespie himself was not a well man.  As Nelson was taking that fatal shot, Gillespie was ashore, laid low with gout!

While scurvy is the dietary complaint traditionally associated with life at sea in the early 1800s, gout was not uncommon.  Linked in part to diets rich in meat, seafood and alcohol, the naval officer class was prone to the condition.  Although Gillespie missed his masters final moments, his gouty absence was no cause for shame.  Indeed, according to William Beatty, it was only through “abstaining for the space of nearly two years from animal food, and wine and all other fermented drink; confining his diet to vegetables, and commonly milk and water” that Nelson overcame his own bout…of gout.

As for Gillespie, he outlived Nelson by nearly three decades, dying at 83 after a long retirement in Paris.  However, in a curious postscript, ‘Dr Leonard Gillespie’ emerged a century later in a very different context.  Firstly in books, then on cinema and TV screens, as the elderly mentor to the titular young medic in the hugely successful Dr Kildare.  In this clip Gillespie (played by Lionel Barrymore) is the one pooh-poohing the idea of  ‘socialised medicine’.  Hmmmm.

 

Waxing lyrical

This post was written by Emily Yates, object conservator at Blythe House

As a conservator, it is always fun to work on weird objects, even the gory ones! This beautiful, if macabre, wax model will be on shown in the exhibition Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men at  the Museum of London, running 19 October 2012 until 14 April 2013. To get her looking her best before going on show I had to remove the layers of dust and dirt that had built up over the years and make a few cosmetic repairs.

This anatomical wax model shows the internal organs, the heart is entirely removable, made by Francesco Calenzuoli (1796-1821) ( Science Museum, London )

I gently removed the dirt layers using a soft brush and a detergent solution. Once the dirt was loosened it was carefully blotted away from the surface. As there are some many crevices this was a long, careful process, but was very worthwhile as it made the coloured wax much more bright and vivid. This change in surface brightness can be seen in the images where the intricate features are much more visible. 

The lower left side of the heart has been cleaned, revealing the much brighter red of the heart ( Science Museum, London )

Wax is highly fragile, as she was made in 1818 it was inevitable that some damage had occurred over nearly 200 years. Some fragments of the wax had become detached from the edges; these formed the skin flaps representing the peeled back surface. Areas of the folded back skin running along the edge of the torso have been lost over the years, but it was possible to reattach some of these, shown in the photo.

It was possible to reattach this fragment of skin; you can also see the improved clean surface of the wax ( Science Museum, London )

The veins are made of thread with a wax coating and so are very fragile. Some of these had become dislodged or even crushed. These were also reattached in place, and any flaking wax was consolidated to prevent further damage occurring.

This picture shows damage to the fragile veins and dust build up in the crevices ( Science Museum, London )

If you would like to see the model, she will be on display from tomorrow at the Museum of London along with several other objects  including post mortem kits, dissecting aprons, a piece of brain and even tattoos, all from the Science Museum’s Blythe House store.

Unpacking bags of Science: The Voices of Science

This post was written by Tara Knights, a work placement student with the Research & Public History department  from Sussex University’s MA Art History and Museum Curating.

The Science Museum’s collections embody stories about the people that created, used or manufactured them. By looking closely at our objects, we can unpack a wealth of information about them.

Gramophone records containing scientific lectures (Science Museum)

Preserved in leather and aluminium casing, these gramophone records have on them lectures by three leading scientists of the 20thcentury: Archibald Vivian Hill (1886-1977), Sir Charles Lovatt Evans(1884-1968) and Yngve Zotterman (1892-1982). All three worked at University College London for part of their careers.  Each scientist focused on a different aspect of physiology. Hill was interested in biophysics, Lovatt Evans in the chemistry of the body and Zotterman on nerve conduction and the sensory functions of the skin including tickling.   

Hill's lectures ( Science Museum, London )

The record was made by Columbia Graphophone Co Ltd for the International Educational Society of Petty France in Westminster, London. Hill’s lecture on ‘The Muscle and Its Energy’ was number 65 in a series that included lessons on Latin.  Although they may not resemble a conventional tool bag, they were the tools of the trade used by scientists at the time. For example, scientists used gramophones to record their lectures whilst teachers, students and researchers  used them to help them teach or learn about science.

These objects were donated to the Science Museum's collections by the Department of Physiology at University College London. (Science Museum)

By looking at objects we soon discover the tales of the people related to them. So, what can objects tell us about our ancestors? After all, objects become so much more meaningful when they are personal to us by relating to our families.  In this series of blog posts we will be exploring the lives of our ancestors by looking at a series of (tool) bags from the Science Museum’s collections.

 

Remembering the Devonport Incident – 50 years on

One bottle is a killer. The other is entirely safe. They’re identical in every other way – indeed from the same manufacturing batch. This new acquisition was donated by Professor Barry Cookson, former Director of the Laboratory of Healthcare Associated Infection, HPA. But what happened to make one so deadly and the other not?

These are the first bottles of dextrose solution to be published ( Science Museum, London )

These bottles of dextrose are sad reminders of the life and death hunt for 500 similar bottles in March 1972. Five patients died at the Devonport Hospital in Plymouth having received fluid from the same batch as these. The fluid was found to be heavily contaminated with bacteria.  A landmark inquiry was launched to discover what went wrong and to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Sterilisation is a key story in the advancement of modern medicine. It’s critical to everyday hospital practice. Largely a practical matter of engineering and systematic checks, sterilisation isn’t glamorous but it’s critical for patient safety – as the Devonport Incident illustrated.

An autoclave is a machine that sterilizes equipment by subjecting them to high pressure steam ( Science Museum, London )

In 1971, these two bottles were autoclaved at the same time. A fault on the machine resulted in only the bottles on the top two shelves being sterilised properly. Those on the lower shelf were not. There were quality control checks – but the assessed bottles were only taken from the top shelf so the failure wasn’t detected and the whole batch was issued for use.

Eleven months later the bottles from the lower shelf reached Devonport hospital. During that time, surviving bacteria multiplied in the solution and produced a toxic fluid with deadly consequences.  There are only slight differences between the bottles – the aluminium cap on the contaminated bottle was still shiny as it hadn’t been sufficiently heated to go dull like the bottle that was sterilised

Image credit: Barry Cookson

 What’s sad is that it often takes tragic incidents like this to identify what’s going wrong with a system, and then implement new standards and checks. The inquiry identified numerous ways safety could be improved from manufacturer to hospital – thankfully those measures are still implemented today and the lessons from this incident are still taught to hundreds of healthcare workers every year.

The greatest inventions since (manufactured) bread?

After learning about the manufacturing process of bread during a bread baking course Pippa Murray got to thinking about what other mass produced products used in our day to day lives have evolved in order to save us time…

Traditionally bread making is a lengthy process. Hours of kneading, proving and baking produce just one meagre loaf. It’s no wonder that so many of us choose to buy a loaf from the shops instead of making it ourselves! The invention of the Chorleywood bread process in 1961 transformed bread  into a product that could be manufactured on mass and distributed to stores nationwide.

This got me thinking what other inventions that have had a similar time saving affect on our lives. Below are a just a smattering of these, often overlooked, household products that can be found in the Making Modern World gallery at the Science Museum.

Microwave oven, 1968 ( Science Museum, London )

The microwave oven was invented by accident after the Second World War when a self-taught engineer named Percy Spencer was building radar equipment in a lab for Raytheon. While he had been building magnetrons,  he noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket started to melt. He realised that microwaves can be directed at food to heat it up rapidly. The conventional microwave oven hit the market in 1967 quickly followed a succession of tantalising microwavable meals.

Sunbeam Ironmaster Model X21 electric dry iron, 1955 ( Science Museum, London )

The humble electric steam iron is not the most exciting of objects (or chores) but arguably one of the most important, popular and widely used domestic electric appliances. The electric iron was invented in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley but it was only until 1938, when the Steam-O-Matic electric steam iron was released did the object become popular, leading the way to more widespread use of the electric steam iron during the 1940s and 1950s.

This model above is one of the earlier Goblin "Teasmade", Model D.25B, 1966, first model made at Leatherhead Works ( Science Museum, London )

And my personal favourite the Teasmade, a multi faceted alarm clock come tea/coffee maker. Designed in 1902 by Albert E Richardson who decided to combine an alarm clock with a small kettle so that the user awoke to a freshly poured cup of tea. Several years later Teasmade trademarked it and developed the product seen above. A great invention but how many of us have them on our bedside tables?

In search of the beat

One of my favourite objects in the Oramics to Electronica exhibition is the TB-303. Marketed in the 1980s as a ‘base accompaniment’ for solo musicians it failed to impress. As a consequence TB-303s soon became available on the second hand market, where they were picked up by inventive DJs creating a new type of sound know as House in cities such as Detroit and Chicago. By pushing the TB-303 to its limits they found a unique ‘liquid’ sound that became the signature sound of Acid House. Together with the TB-303, drum machines played a pivotal role in the development of House music. Today there are few music genres that don’t use electronically produced drum sounds.

Roland TB-303 synthesizer on loan from the Museum of Techno (Credit: Science Museum)

In our sound (re)production stores at Blythe you can find two big wooden boxes. They are very early ‘rhythm accompaniment’ instruments. Much like the TB-303 they were intended to accompany solo musicians. But unlike the TB-303 both instruments are not purely electronic devices, they have mechanical parts as well.

Chamberlin Rhythmate in storage at Blythe (Credit: Merel van der Vaart)

The oldest of the two is a Chamberlin Rhythmate . It arrived on the market in the late 1940s, but was never very popular. It is a bit like a tape machine playing a pre-recorded drum rhythm on loop. Instead of one tape, there are fourteen. By moving the tape head from one tape to the other you can switch between rhythms. You can also speed up the tapes, or slow them down to change the tempo.

Wurlitzer Sideman in storage at Blythe House (Credit: Merel van der Vaart)

The other box is the aptly named Wurlitzer Sideman . This was built some ten years after the Rhythmate and doesn’t use pre-recorded material, but creates the sound electronically. Metal brushes attached to an arm sweep around a circular base, touching little contacts as they go along. When the brush and contact are connected, a current is sent to one of a number of sound-making circuits. The type of circuit that is activated decides the type of sound that is created. The speed at which the brush goes round defines the tempo.

It has been said that one of the founders of a well known company producing synthesisers and drum machines was inspired by the Sideman to start making his own drum machines. The company produced many popular instruments, but one of them initially didn’t do very well. It was called the TB-303.

The Secret of Life

The third and final installment of Miranda Bud’s blogs… 

The Watson and Crick discovery of the DNA double helix is an iconic image of our scientific age. It is considered the milestone of contemporary genetics and is such an integrated part of our society that saying “it’s in my DNA” is a commonly used phrase by many people.

Working with Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin they unlocked the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century. It led to countless advances, solved a mystery which had troubled scientists for decades and it was what produced Francis Crick’s famous statement in the Eagle pub on the 28th February 1953 that he and Watson had “found the secret of life”.

(The four Collaborators on the DNA model. Credit: ba-education.com)

Since then a lot more research has been done to unravel the secrets of DNA and to decode the human genome. What surprised me though was that DNA structure is not something merely left to the scientific world…

In 1993 Bijan, an American fashion designer, brought out ‘DNA’ perfume, with the caption “DNA…it’s the reason you have your father’s eyes, your mother’s smile”. This highlights the link between art and science that exists and which is becoming more visible, as more and more artists and designers take their inspiration from molecular biology.

(Bottle of 'DNA' eau de parfum, United States, 1993. Credit: Science Museum)

From my time at the Science Museum I have seen more than anything how science can be related to all aspects of life. From fashion to fission, science helps build a picture of the world around us and tries to give us reasons for why we live the way we do.

I loved seeing a different side to the museum, one most members of the public don’t get to experience. Blythe and Wroughton with their huge stores allow you to see not just science, but history as well. There are so many objects each with a unique story, and I only regret that I have only managed to discover but a few of those stories in my short time here.

Spectacular spectacles

The second installment of Miranda Bud’s blogs… 

The majority of people will need to wear some form of glasses at some point of their lives, and I am no exception. I was fascinated therefore to discover the treasure trove of old spectacles frames and lenses hidden away in the basement of Blythe.

The most striking thing about the majority of these spectacles was their size. The glasses have tiny lenses which I can imagine were quite difficult to see through. The one pair I have chosen to focus on is a pair with double folding blue lenses which gave extra protection to the eyes.

(Turn pin spectacles with tinted, double folding lenses, France, 1790-1850. Credit: Science Museum)

The lenses on these steel wire spectacles protect the front and sides of the eye. They are tinted blue to protect from the sun. The spectacle arms are pivoted at the temple and can rotate 360 degrees. They are known as turnpin spectacles. These types of glasses where very popular  during the late 1700s and early 1800s, and even the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven owned a pair of round frame turnpin glasses.

(Round Turnpin Glasses similar to those worn by composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Credit: The College of Optometrists)

Obviously everyone had to have their own prescription, but back in the 19th century testing eyesight was a little different to how it is today.  In 1928 Henry Wellcome bought a set of 12 trial lenses and a pair of trial frames at auction, the lenses look as though as they would have been used to test a patient’s eyesight. However, the unusual shape of the lenses indicate they were used to test patients with severe sight problems.

(Set of 12 trial lenses and a pair of trial frames, Europe, 1880-1920. Credit: Science Museum)

Over the years glasses have evolved somewhat, moving from pince-nez and monocles to the more modern thick rimmed ‘hipster’ glasses. It is fascinating to see the progression and to see how some styles seem to keep coming back, while others thankfully have gone for good.

(Hipster Glasses. Credit: Bossip.com)

 

Breathing in Blythe

In the next few blogs Miranda Bud, a work experience student, gives us an account of the objects that have sparked her imagination over the last few days… 

Before coming to the Science Museum I’d never heard of an iron lung, let alone seen one. My first day at Blythe I was intrigued by the huge coffin like contraption used predominantly during the polio outbreaks of the 1940s and 1950s. The first form of life-support, it was invented in America in 1928 to help victims of gas inhalation.

(Drinker-type iron lung respirator, London, England, 1930-1939. Named after its inventor, Philip Drinker (1894-1972). Credit: Science Museum)

Iron lungs became famous for keeping polio patients alive. In October 1928, an eight-year-old girl at the Children’s Hospital in Boston who was suffering from severe respiratory failure due to the disease, dramatically recovered within less than a minute of being placed in the chamber.

(Explanatory diagram showing a later iron lung model. Credit: Oobject)

Iron lungs help patients to breathe by sucking air out of the chamber causing the patients lungs to expand, and then pumping air back in, causing the patient to exhale. For many the iron lung was a temporary necessity, however others spent the rest of their lives in them. For these patients they developed a peculiar affinity with their iron lung, as it was both a prison and a savior. When more modern life-support machines were invented, iron lungs were no longer needed. However many patients would still return to hospital in order to sleep in their iron lungs, some even decided to modernise theirs, adding the Internet and television which they could control with their feet.

Re-’cycling’

On Saturday I had tickets to see the Men’s Road Race competition. It was terrifically exciting as they zoomed nine times round Box Hill. Shame about the result but ho hum. In recent times Britain has become bike mad. Bicycle bits crop up a surprising amount of times – in rather unusual ways - in the medical collections.  So even if it all goes wrong for Bradley Wiggins in the time trial (and fingers crossed not!)- here’s some ideas to put his bike to good use to:

(The radium 'bomb' was built in the hospital's workshops - put together from simple available equipment such as bike parts. Credit: Science Museum)

This stange looking contraption is known as a radium ‘bomb’. Radium was a radioactive source used to give radiotherapy for cancer treatment in the 1930s at Westminster Hospital.  The radium was placed in the egg-shaped lead-lined head (known as the ‘bomb’) and a bicycle break cable enabled doctors to expose patients to the radium by opening and closing the shutter at a distance – helping them to avoid exposure to the radiation. 

This ‘exo-skeleton’  leg frame was designed to relieve pressure on the joints of people with arthritis. It features an adapted bicycle seat to help the user to rest their weight when strapped into the frame.  

(Made by Professor W. Thring in the 1960s, Thring was one of the first people to work on domestic robots. Credit: Science Museum)

Perhaps our star object is the Stoke Mandeville Hospital bed cycle – which employed bike chain and cassette to help injured WW2 veterans rebuild strength in arms and lengths by pushing pedals. Stoke Mandeville Hospital was the site for the games that went on to become the Paralympics

Dr Ludwig Guttmann set up the specialist Spinal Injuries Unit in 1944 where the bed cycle was used. On the first day of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, sixteen ex-servicemen took to the Hospital lawn in Aylesbury to compete in the first ever Stoke Mandeville Games. Credit: Science Museum).

Cycling is clearly not just a recent passion. A number of tattoo’s in our collection, dating from around the 1890s show a great love for the sport.

(Despite not being able to get hold of an image of my favourite tattoo - a pig riding a bike - here's a tattoo of a man riding a penny farthing. The inscription was a regular motto for German cyclists "All Heil!" meaning 'All's well!'. Credit: Science Museum)

It would be interesting to know whether many of the GB Team have taken their passion for cycling as far inking the skin. Anyway – good luck to Wiggins and all the cyclists – let’s hope they strike gold!

PS. Yay – Gold! Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins for winning the time trial. Ok so he wasn’t ever in danger of needing to break up his bike for hospital parts.