Automatic lancet, London, England, 1822-1863
Lancets were used in bloodletting – a practice once carried out to treat a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. This automatic type of lancet was invented in the early 1800s and works by the blade being swiftly released to cut into a vein by means of a spring mechanism. The skill and experience of the operator was vital in determining the depth of the cut. The main body of the lancet is made of brass, but the double-sided blade is made of a stronger, finer metal. The lancet is held within a purpose-made leather carrying case. This example was made by Simpson, a surgical instrument maker based in London.
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Glossary: Medical traditions
Glossary: automatic lancet
A surgical instrument of various forms, commonly sharp-pointed and double-edged, used in venesection, and in opening abscesses, etc,which uses a spring mechanism instead of human force.
Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.