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Hypodermic syringe with carrying case, England, 1860

Hypodermic needles came into common use in the second half of the 1800s. This syringe and needle set was made just a handful of years after the hollow needle was invented by Scottish doctor Alexander Wood in 1853 – although French surgeon Charles Pravaz was independently developing a similar device at the same time. Hypodermic needles allow drugs to be injected under the skin. In this example, parts of the syringe are also made of metal. The now familiar plastic syringes did not appear appeared until a century later. Today, both needles and syringe tend to be disposed of after a single use. This example was made by London-based surgical instrument makers Coxeter & Son.

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Glossary: hypodermic syringe

A syringe is a simple piston pump consisting of a plunger that fits tightly in a tube. The plunger can be pulled and pushed along inside a cylindrical tube (the barrel), allowing the syringe to take in and expel a liquid or gas through an orifice at the open end of the tube. In modern medicine, a syringe is often fitted with a hypodermic needle to create a hypodermic syringe which is most commonly used for injecting materials directly into the bloodstream.