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Many museums and organisations have been celebrating the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. But have you ever wondered what kind of medicine Scott and his party brought with them to the ends of the earth? Here at the Science Museum we know because we have one Scott’s original aluminium medicine chests. The chest, dated to 1910, was carried by Scott and his party when they set out for the pole in November 1911. This […]

“Which is it to-day,” I asked, “morphine or cocaine?” He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened. “It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?” The Sign of Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (1890) Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly literature’s most famous cocaine user. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Holmes uses cocaine in order to stimulate his brain when he wasn’t applying it to a case. The detective famously injected a […]

If you have ever seen the Gibson & Son Pharmacy display at the Science Museum, then you know it’s not always easy to tell what is inside the numerous and bewilderingly labelled shop rounds. Pharmacists really had to know their abbreviated Latin as many of the medications sold in in the nineteenth century contained opium. But how can you spot a bottle which contains opium? There are many ways to say opium on shop rounds. Bottles like we find in Gibson’s might say OPII., OPIO., RHOEA. PAPAVER. […]

If you’ve ever been in hospital, there’s a good chance your doctor gave you morphine to help with the pain when recovering from a procedure. If you have ever had a bad cough, you might have been given a cough syrup with codeine in it. We don’t usually think of addictive substances as playing an important role in medicine, but the Science Museum’s pharmaceutical collection shows that these drugs have been widely used by doctors since ancient times. Opium in […]

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