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martes, 14 de julio de 2009

Quack Medicine


Victorian Prohibitions

Interest in sexual relationships is nothing new and therapeutic devices, sometimes quite bizarre, have always been available (94). Many athletes refrain from sexual activities prior to competition with the belief that strengths and abilities will otherwise be reduced. Masturbation, or onanism, has been associated with the development of weakness, mental illness, neurologic disorders, blindness, and so on for generations. Many ways to "cure" this habit were available in the 19th century (95-97).

90) Dr. Albert Abrams
Dr. Albert Abrams

90) Dr. Albert Abrams
According to the AMA, Albert Abrams was the "dean of twentieth century charlatans". He wrote numerous books and journals and was responsible for the production of a large number of inventive electrical devices, none of which had any medical activity (as stated by scientists of the time). His medical devices were not sold but only rented to practitioners under the stipulation that they not divulge the secrets of contents.
94) Lawson's Vaginal Washer
This bizarre instrument was to be used for female hygiene and sold in the early 20th century. A large irrigating syringe was to be attached and when the handle was turned, the instrument rotated around, acting like a squeegee.

94) Lawson's Vaginal Washer
94) Lawson's Vaginal Washer

95-97) Preventing Onanism
Victorian attitudes regarding sex were very conservative at the end of the 19th century. Masturbation (onanism, self-abuse) and nocturnal emissions (spermatorrhea) were recognized as causes of retardation, weakness, visual impairment, and neurologic disorders. (Imagine the embarrassment of those suffering from those problems at the time!) Several ingenious techniques were available to prevent these "abuses of nature". Robert E. Revere recommended the use of ice water that was circulated over night in his book "Spermatorrhea; Its Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment" (1870). Through a Sears catalogue, one could purchase a spermatorrhea ring which would employ sharp spikes to discourage the user at the appropriate time during sleep. (By the way, this is the only reproduction in my collection, so if you have an original to sell, please let me know!) Another device, similar to a chastity belt, is seen in the 1900 "Catalogue Illustre des Instruments de Chirurgie", by Aubry. Note the small lock on the waistband.
96) Spermatorrhea Ring
96) Spermatorrhea Ring
98-99) Countercurrent Therapy
Discomfort in one place to ease pain in another is the theory behind John Linden's book "Baunscheidtism, or a New Exanthematic Method of Cure" (1874). The resuscitator shown is fairly common though the accompanying brush and the bottle of "John Linden's improved oleum", are fairly rare.
100-101) The Phonendoscope to Hear Disease
Advertised to pick up the different sounds made by various diseased, the phonendoscope was fairly popular at the end of the 19th century. The one here is complete and was produced by the famous French instrument maker, Aubry.

Miscellaneous Contraptions
Counterirritant therapy for pain relief was exemplified by the Resuscitator, which made use of a medical therapeutic approach popular for centuries. It seems that the production of discomfort in one area of the body can relieve pain elsewhere, perhaps by confusing pain recognition centers in the brain. The Resuscitator is a set of fine needles attached to a spring device designed for that purpose (98,99).

99) Resuscitator
99) Resuscitator

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