Category: Instruments

Convertible Monaural Stethoscope

Convertible Monaural Stethoscope

Wood, Circa 1860

Artifact Collection, Medical Heritage Center

The stethoscope is an acoustic medical device for auscultation, or listening to the internal sounds of the body. It is used to listen to lung and heart sounds as well as to listen to intestines and blood flow in arteries and veins.

Initially heart sounds were auscultated by placing the ear directly on the chest of the patient. For the sake of convenience and propriety, in 1816 Dr. Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec rolled up several sheets of paper and placed one end over the patient’s heart and the other end over his ear. Laennec was a skilled wood turner and later replaced the rolled paper with a wooden tube. For his invention of the stethoscope, Laennec is considered the father of chest medicine.

In the early 1850’s there was a rush of designs for a new stethoscope that used both ears. In 1851, Arthur Leared invented a binaural stethoscope, and in 1852 George Cammann perfected the design of it for commercial production.

Stethoscopes are often considered as a symbol of the doctor’s profession, as doctors are often seen or depicted with a stethoscope hanging around their neck.

Skin Grafting Instrument

Dr. Gilman Kirk
Skin Grafting Instrument
88mm mortar shell

This skin grafting instrument was made by Dr. Gilman Kirk during World War II from an 88mm mortar shell. The instruments supplied by the military did not work as well as Dr. Kirk would have liked, so he and a military engineer made this skin grafting instrument out of material that was available: an 88mm shell. This is an example of the ingenuity needed in battlefield medicine.

Bloodletting Instruments


Bloodletting was the withdrawal of often considerable quantities of blood from a patient in the belief that it cured or prevented a great many illnesses and diseases. It was a popular medical practice from antiquity up to the late 19th century. The practice has been abandoned for all except a few very specific conditions.

The scarificator is a spring loaded instrument that has a series of blades that snap out to cut the skin to allow for bloodletting. The bleeding bowl, as the name implies, is a bowl used to collect blood. The Medical Heritage Center’s bleeding bowl has lines etched into the inside that correspond to different prescriptions.