‘Livingstone’ Medicine Chest

‘Livingstone’ Medicine Chest

Staying alive in the jungle

The extravagant Swedish-American explorer Algot Lange took this medicine chest on his adventures in the Amazon rainforest in 1911. Its battered and well-used condition testifies to the hardships and hazards of jungle life.

Lange’s published account of his travels contained excruciatingly detailed descriptions of various medical complaints. Readers loved them, but they were more sceptical about his sensational claims to have encountered cannibals, a 50-foot anaconda and vast quantities of gold. Asked why he left the gold behind, he claimed he was too ill to carry it.

This style of medicine chest was known as the ‘Livingstone’ after the earlier, more famous explorer. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary, became a popular hero after he became one of the first Europeans to cross the width of southern Africa in 1856.

You can see more medicine chests used on expeditions in the Science and Art of Medicine gallery on the fifth floor.

What do the other museums have to say?

Science Museum: 11 July – 21 August
Wellcome Collection: 20 January – 6 March
Horniman Museum: 7 March – 17 April
Natural History Museum: 18 April – 30 May
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: 31 May – 10 July

Source: Wellcome Medical Collection at the Science Museum, London. Inv. No: A700016.

Currently on display in:
Year made :
C. 1911
Inventory number :