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Ophthalmic electromagnet, United Kingdom, c. 1940

This special electromagnet was used to attract any metal fragments that had become lodged in the eye, bringing them to the surface and making them easier to remove surgically. Metal may have got into the eye by accident, either at work or in the home, although given that this device was probably made in 1940 it is likely to have been used to treat those injured by wartime bombing. Machines like this were invented around the 1870s and were introduced into hospitals in the 1900s. This instrument was used at the London Hospital, Whitechapel, now known as The Royal London Hospital after being granted a royal charter in 1990.

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Glossary: ophthalmology

The branch of medicine dealing with the diseases and surgery of the visual pathways (usually the eyes or the brain).

Glossary: electromagnet

Magnet constructed from a soft iron core around which is wound a coil of wire. A magnetic field is generated when an electric current is passed through the wire.