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Surgical instrument set, London, England, 1810-1812

A large range of the equipment an army surgeon may have needed to perform various surgical operations and care for the welfare of soldiers is in this 40-piece instrument set. The set includes equipment for amputation – knives, saws and tourniquets – trephination, dentistry and removing bullets. The mahogany case is engraved with the name “W. Ward, Army Surgeon” and the date “1812”. In 1812, the Napoleonic Wars were ravaging Europe and this may have been one of the theatres of war to which Ward was sent.

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    Glossary: tenaculum

    An instrument consisting of a fine, sharp hook attached to a handle, and used mainly for taking up arteries, and the like

    Glossary: lenticular

    Referring to or shaped like a lentil, such as the lens of the eye

    Glossary: surgical instrument set

    Set of instruments to be used for surgery. A physician would often build up their own collection of favoured tools in order to feel as comfortable as possible when carrying out surgery.

    Glossary: amputation

    Removal of part of, or a whole limb by surgery. Used to control pain or the spread of disease in the affected limb.

    Glossary: field hospital

    A temporary hospital set up near a combat zone to provide emergency care for the wounded.

    Glossary: trephination

    The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.

    Glossary: tourniquet

    Designed to compress the blood vessels of a limb. It consists of a bandage, pad and screw. By varying the tightness of the tourniquet, it is possible to control the circulation of blood for a short time.

    Glossary: dentistry

    The study, treatment and management of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, gums, teeth and their supporting tissues.

    Glossary: cannula

    A tube for insertion into a duct or cavity in order to drain off fluid or give medication.