These 18 Old Medical Photos Are Terrifying And Fascinating At The Same Time

old medical photos

With the wonders modern medicine works every day, it’s easy to forget how tough the early days of medicine were. Even as the scientific method informed the development of new drugs, techniques, and tools, there were plenty of quacks looking to cash in and few avenues to hold them to account. And there were mistakes. Lots of mistakes. For many patients, the cure was often as harrowing as the disease. So have a look at the photos below and be thankful that you’re living in the 21st century.

1. Patients at mental institutions were restrained with wet blankets.
old medical photos

2. Protective gear for a radiology nurse, circa 1918.
old medical photos

3. Early treatment of rickets involved tanning during the winter months; circa 1925.

old medical photos


4. Dr. Lewis Sayre treating scoliosis, checking the curvature of the spine.

old medical photos

5. Dr. Clark’s Spinal Apparatus, circa 1878, one of the more bizarre and least practical treatments for scoliosis.
old medical photos


6. An early defibrillator, circa 1940s.

old medical photos

7. Physiotherapy used to be hands-off, seen here at Walter Reed circa 1920.

old medical photos

8. Surgery wasn’t always performed under an aesthesia; this one using ether, circa 1855, was a step in the right direction.

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9. An anatomical model of a pregnant woman so doctors wouldn’t have to teach using a real woman. The coffin reinforces that only the anatomies of dead people should be studied. Circa 1680.

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10. European birthing chair, circa 1750. It’s adjustable!
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11. Somewhere between a gurney and a wheelchair, an “invalid rolling cart” circa 1915.
old medical photos

12. “Healing” radioactive water, circa 1928.

old medical photos

13. We hope this prosthetic leg, circa 1890, served her well.
old medical photos

14. This prosthetic hand, circa 1800, suggests many advancements in 90 years.
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15. Stacking up polio sufferers in a multi-person iron lung, circa 1950.
old medical photos

16. Medical heroin, developed and sold by Bayer in the 1890s.
old medical photos

17. The cure that may have caused never-ending toothaches. Circa 1885.
old medical photos

18. A jar for leeches, circa 1800s.
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