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Antiseptic machine, England, 1879

Anthony Bell, a surgeon based in Newcastle, patented the design for his device in 1879. The machine was used to make the surrounding air antiseptic. The hammer tapped the base of a small container of medicated powder, rather like an upside down salt shaker. The powder was sprinkled into the path of a fan in the tinned cylinder at the back of the machine. Air from the fan was propelled through a piece of gauze sprayed with carbolic acid. The medicated powder and the carbolic acid combined to rid the air of germs.

Object number:

A600319

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Glossary:

Glossary: antiseptic machine

machine used to make the atmosphere antispetic

Glossary: carbolic acid

A strong disinfectant used for cleansing wounds. It is rarely used today, although it can still be found in mouthwash.

Glossary: antisepsis

The practice of using antiseptic drugs to eliminate harmful micro-organisms.

Glossary: germ

Tiny organisms that cause disease. 'Germ' is now a term that is applied loosely to many micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi.