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Spencer Wells-type obstetrics clamp, Paris, France, 1870-1900

This obstetric clamp was invented by Thomas Spencer Wells (1818-1897), an English gynaecologist who developed a number of clamps for blood vessels. The handles are textured for improved grip. Spencer Wells also did much to popularise ovariotomy. He performed 440 ovariotomies between 1858 and 1871 with a 75 per cent success rate, a figure which increased after he began using antisepsis techniques. Ovariotomy was a procedure used not only for cysts and tumours but also controversially for hysteria. The instrument was made by Collin, a surgical instrument maker based in Paris, France. This item came from the surgical instrument makers, now called Charrière, Collin and Gentile, who sold their collection in 1978.

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Glossary: ovariotomy

The operation of removing one or both of the ovaries

Glossary: clamp

An instrument for compression of a structure

Glossary: hysteria

A nervous affection, occurring almost exclusively in women, in which the emotional and reflex excitability is exaggerated, and the will power correspondingly diminished, so that the patient loses control over the emotions, becomes the victim of imaginary sensations, and often falls into paroxism or fits.

Glossary: obstetrics

A branch of medicine dealing with the care of women. This care occurs during pregnancy, childbirth, and the period of recovery from childbirth.