Tag Archives: num:ScienceMuseum=A683097

The man behind the motor – William Morris and the iron lung

March marks the 100th anniversary of the first cars made by William Morris (1877-1963). The first was a Morris-Oxford Light Car. William Morris began making and repairing bicycles in his work and gradually went onto to hiring and repairing cars before making his own. Although his business was disrupted by the First World War, Morris went on to dominate the British car industry and was made a baron in 1934 and 4 years later Viscount for his services to car manufacturing. He would become known as Viscount Nuffield.

Morris Minor MM, 1950 ( Science Museum, London )

You may be wondering why a medical curator is writing about car manufacturing? Well to us medical folk, Lord Nuffield is more well known for providing hospitals across the UK and what was then the British Empire with iron lungs. Over 5,000 iron lungs were donated and we are lucky enough to have one in the collection, that was donated to the Memorial Hospital in Darlington.

Both-type iron lung donated to the Memorial Hospital Darlington, c.1950s ( Science Museum, London )

During the late 1940s and 1950s, polio was cutting its way across the UK and the rest of the world. The vaccines developed by Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin were still years away. Polio can and did affect people, especially children, in different ways. As an infectious disease affecting the central nervous system, some people would experience temporary or permanent paralysis of the the limbs, or of the chest muscles. For the latter, the only treatment option was an iron lung. Few hospitals were able to afford the £1000 each machine cost.

Nuffield began his mission to spread iron lungs across the world in 1938 after hearing a plea for a iron lung on the radio and offered a part of his factory to manufacture them. At the time, the Both iron lung that Nuffield begin to make was not seen as the best model on the market and he was for his “wasteful benevolence.” Nuffield went on to maufacture 700 of the Both-type iron lungs machines in his workshops. In total Nuffield donated over 5000 iron lungs. One is on display at his former home, Nuffield Place. If you look closely at our iron lung, many of the parts, look at those they were modelled on car parts.

Handle of the Both-type iron lung ( Science Museum, London )

Today, the Nuffield name lives on in the many other medical institutions and posts that William Morris endowed including Nuffield Department of Surigcal Sciences and the Nuffield College at the University of Oxford and the Nuffield Foundation. So the next time you see a Morris car, think about the man behind the motor.

The 12 days of Christmas (well sort of)…Part 4

Here’s the final installment of our festive 4-parter – the 12 days of Christmas re-worked with items from our collections. Check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 as well.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

10 Lords a-Leaping

You won’t be surprised to learn that there is a large amount of memorabilia in the collection relating to famous Lords.

Lord Nuffield, also known as William Morris is best remembered for work in car manufacturing. He was also a philanthropist and donated some of the first iron lungs to many British hospitals in the 1950s.

Iron lung donated by Lord Nuffield to Memorial Hospital Darlington (A683097, Science Museum, London)

Iron lungs were used in the treatment of polio and patients could be encapsulated from anything from a few hours to the rest of their life.

For some other Lord memorabilia, how about Lord Nelson’s fatal wound, a  mobility chair invented by Lord Snowdon, or some invaluable advice from Lord Kitchener. How many others can you find lurking in the museum’s collection?

11 Pipers Piping

It’s not very often you find a piper in the collection but this collecting box features the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Pied Piper collecting box for polio (1994-70, Science Museum, London)

The legend of the Pied Piper was famous for luring rats from Hamelin. Rats carry a number of diseases including TB, E.coli as well as being transporters for the bubonic plague. During bouts of plague, amulets would circulate offering protection from the dreaded disease.

Amulet for protection against plague, Bavaria, 1690-1710 (A666092, Science Museum, London)

12 Drummers Drumming

Drums feature in a number of scientific and medical apparatus for recording data. This drum was used to diagnose an eye condition called optic nystagmus. This causes involuntary movements of the eye, usually from side to side. By rotating the drum an ophthalmologist can assess how the eyes work in unison and separately.

Drum for diagnosing eye conditions, (A662690, Science Museum, London)

We hope you’ve enjoyed our slightly odd interpretation of the 12 days of Christmas – it has certainly made us look at our objects in an entirely new light. Have a very merry Christmas!