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Frog's foot specimen prepared by Joseph Lister, 1857

This specimen was prepared by Joseph Lister (1827-1912) while studying inflammation in the 1850s. Inflammation is the response of tissues in the body to infection or injury. The symptoms are pain, heat, swelling and redness. Lister was not certain that the early stages of inflammation had been correctly understood. He studied a live frog’s leg under the microscope, applying different irritants to the leg such as chloroform and mustard to study how inflammation happened and affected a healthy limb, its blood-vessels and the flow of blood.

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    Glossary: zoological specimen

    specimen relating to zoology, the study and science of animals.

    Glossary: microscope

    Instrument that provides a magnified view of an object being studied usually by optical means. Electrons, X-rays and ultra-violet light can be used instead of visible light

    Glossary: chloroform

    A liquid formerly used as a general anaesthetic although no longer used for this purpose as it causes liver damage and affects the heart rate. It is now used in low concentration to treat flatulence.

    Glossary: animal experimentation

    Before researchers test drug treatments in human clinical trials, they normally test them on animals to determine if they are toxic, to find the correct dose and whether they are effective.

    Glossary: animal experiments

    The use of animals in scientific research. The process has become controversial in some countries, but is considered vital by many scientists. The British Royal Society claims that virtually every medical achievement of the twentieth century used animal testing. The British and American governments both support animal testing provided that it minimizes animal suffering.

    Glossary: inflammation

    The body’s response to injury. An inflammation is marked by redness, heat, pain, swelling, and often loss of function. The process leads to the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue.