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Three-bladed fleam, England, 1791-1830

This fleam bears the inscription “John Hunter St George's Hospital London”. Such instruments were used for bloodletting animals. They were occasionally used on humans although the preferred instrument was the lancet. The fleam has three blades which fold into the horn handle. John Hunter (1728-93) was a hugely influential Scottish surgeon and anatomist who was famous for his skill in dissection and anatomical preparations, not only of humans but also animals. Hunter was interested in comparative anatomy, which examines the contrasts and similarities between the structures of different organisms. Hunter was at St George’s Hospital as a pupil in 1754 and briefly as house surgeon in 1756. He was later appointed to the role of surgeon at the hospital in 1767-1768.

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Glossary: fleam

A sharp instrument used for opening veins, lancing gums etc.

Glossary: bloodletting

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.

Glossary: veterinary medicine

Medical science that deals with the diseases and care of animals.

Glossary: comparative anatomy

The study of the different physical forms of all animals including humans.