Displays: Magneto Electric Machine
If you have ever visited the library commons, more likely than not you have noticed the collection of antique medical equipment on display. The display cases boast a wide and interesting array of Old & Rare inventory . . . so interesting in fact many wonder what these items were used for. And when.
In order to solve these mysteries the Isché Library plans to give brief history lessons about items in the display case via our blog.
First up is Davis & Kidder’s Patent Magneto Electric Machine for Nervous Disorders.
This particular machine is dated August 1, 1854 and like each Magneto Electric Machine created, the label inside the box lid provides detailed instructions for proper treatment.
“Directions: Connect two Metallic Cords or wires with the socket in the ends of the box, and apply the handles connected with the other ends of the metallic cords or wires to any part of the person through which it is desirable to pass the current of electricity.” For the full instructions (trust me, they are interesting and a bit scary) click here.
What purpose did this machine serve? The best description is found at Dr. Olgierd Lindan’s Collection of Unusual Medical Devices & Antique Electronics explains in simplest form that and electric current passed through the patient’s body “generated by a pair of solenoids that spin against the poles of a large horseshoe magnet.” The electricity was believed to stimulate a healing reaction within the human nervous system.
Did it work? According to the above mentioned website, the treatment of this device is questionable. “The therapeutic value of the treatment, if any, was likely due to the placebo effect. With the electric shocks coursing through his body as he gripped the hand electrodes, the patient definitely felt that ‘something was being done’ about his complaint. Electricity was a new and novel force in the 1800′s and most patients had no prior exposure to it, adding to its curative mystique.”
Fun facts- each Patent Magneto Electric Machine was signed by the production company to ensure genuine authenticity of this machine. Testimonials were also printed on the inside lid delighting in the marvel of this machine.