Spare a Thought for Samuel Pepys!
Posted on: 13 November 2020 by Leonie Sedman, Curator of Heritage & Collections Care in 2020
‘What is the purpose of this strange looking instrument?’ I hear you ask.
This is a bladder stone crusher from the Medical Museum Collection, part of the University Heritage Collections. Note the ivory handles and the beautifully crafted mechanism.
The image below is of the largest bladder stone in our collection – it is about the size of a £2 coin, and is of a type called a Jackstone urolith. It was discovered in 2004, with a number of long forgotten medical and scientific historic items in an object archive - when the Heritage Collections were first collated in preparation for the establishment of the VG&M.
The famous 17th Century diarist Samuel Pepys suffered from bladder stones from a young age. By the time he was 25, his pain was so bad that he elected to have surgery – a process called lithotomy. The invention of the procedure is credited to Ammonius Lithotomus of Alexandria – in the 3rd century BC.
So with no anaesthetic available, and with no knowledge of the danger of germs, Pepys was held down while the surgeon made an incision in the perineum - and using an implement similar to the one in our collection - removed the stone (allegedly, the size of a tennis ball!).
Fascinated? Read more in these links: