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In the 1870s, American businessman Henry Wellcome began a single-minded mission to compile a comprehensive collection of objects relating to medicine and human health.

Building on Wellcome’s legacy, this exhibition displayed the wide diversity of ways that people have perceived health, using examples that range from prehistoric surgical tools to modern medical equipment—as well as many things that no longer seem to belong in a medical context at all.

From pacemakers to paracetamol, medicine shapes all of our lives by identifying, preventing and treating an ever-widening range of illnesses. It can be easy to forget that medical interventions have not always been so effective or freely available as they are today. But the Science Museum’s medicine collection reminds us of the tragedies and triumphs of our long search for good health and the ever-changing nature of medicine.

This exhibition provided a taster of what’s to come in our new Medicine Galleries, opening in 2019.

We are grateful to have received initial financial support for the new Medicine Galleries from: