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A speculum lets a physician look inside the body. American physician Dr Philippe Ricord (1800-89) used this vaginal speculum on Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugénie of France (1826-1920). The speculum is made of gilt metal and ivory. These expensive metals show the importance of the physician and the patient. Specula with two valves, such as this, were introduced in 1825. Problems with vaginal specula include pain felt by the patient and how much light the physician has to perform an examination. The highly polished surface of the valves reflected some light. Specula examinations caused controversy in the 1800s over male doctors performing such an intimate examination on women.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: vaginal speculum

Instrument for dilating the vagina, and throwing light within thus facilitating examination or surgical operations

Glossary: gynaecology

A branch of medicine dealing with the treatment of disorders affecting the female reproductive system.

Glossary: urology

A branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the urinary tract of men and women, and the reproductive system of males.