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Finsen lamp, Europe, 1890-1900

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This Finsen lamp was presented to the Royal London Hospital (formerly the London Hospital) by Queen Alexandra (1844-1925) when she was Princess of Wales. The lamp was named after its inventor, Neils Ryberg Finsen (1860-1904), who in 1894 pioneered the use of ultraviolet light (UV) to treat tuberculosis of the skin. The UV light is projected through each of the four telescopes so four patients can be treated at once. This type of treatment declined with the introduction of antibiotics but a lamp was kept in case the drugs did not work. The Finsen lamp was also used to treat rickets from the 1920s onwards. At the suggestion of Finsen himself, the hospital presented the lamp to the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in 1953.

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    Glossary: rickets

    A condition caused by a lack of vitamin D. Characterized by soft and deformed bones, which can lead to an increased number of injuries.

    Glossary: tuberculosis

    An infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium first identified by Robert Koch in 1882. The disease usually affects the lungs first, and is accompanied by a chronic cough.

    Glossary: Finsen lamp

    Niels Ryberg Finsen was a Danish physician who pioneered the use of ultraviolet light – from a Finsen Lamp – in the treatment of a number of skin infections.