Lister Spray, 1880

Medical Chest, 1850

X-ray Tube, 1900

Leech Jar, 1890

Surgeon's Kit, 1850

Binocular Microscope, 1870

The Dawn of Modern Medicine: Selections from the Medical Artifact Collection of M. Donald Blaufox, MD, PhD

November 24, 2018 - April 7, 2019

The 19th century witnessed a remarkable transformation of the field of medical practice.

At the beginning of the century, medical instruments were often beautifully crafted, but could not be sterilized.

Anesthesia did not exist and post-operative infection killed many patients.

As the era progressed, germ theory became accepted and aseptic tools replaced aesthetically pleasing instruments made of wood, ivory, and ebony.

Advancing technology brought the world new ways to diagnose illness such as the stethoscope, x-rays, and sphygmomanometer (for blood pressure). 

Many of these innovative instruments are direct precursors of those used by present-day doctors,often with remarkably little modification.

This exhibition will showcase approximately one hundred artifacts, ranging from surgical tools to quack patent medicines to early x-ray tubes, telling the story of how various branches of diagnostic and therapeutic medicine evolved.

The Bruce Museum is grateful for support of this exhibition from the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund, Gale and Bob Lawrence and the Connecticut Office of the Arts. 

Click here to learn more.

The Dawn of Modern Medicine Public Programs

Be sure to sign in to the reservation page to receive your member discount. (Member Discount taken after item is added to cart.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
Science Lecture: Changing Concepts of Radioactivity and Health
Lecture by Dr. M. Donald Blaufox

Professor and University Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as well as a former Chairman of the American Board of Nuclear Medicine

 Light refreshments at 6:30 pm precede the lecture, which begins at 7:00 pm. The Museum doors open at 6:20 pm. 

This lecture will review the uses of radioactivity for selected medical and commercial purposes and the events that led to the recognition of its dangers.

When ionizing radiation was first discovered it rapidly gained public acceptance. Radiation was thought to be a panacea and was used for the treatment of numerous diseases. By1921, the price of one gram of radium had risen to $100,000. Since the late 1920s and early 1930s the public's attitude towards radiation has shifted 180° and it is now considered an extremely dangerous and potentially harmful source of energy. However, even as late as the 1950s, there were still some items produced containing radioactivity, which today would be unthinkable. The “Buck Rogers Mystery Ring” of the 1950s was activated with radioactive polonium.

Members and students with ID, free; non-members $15. Reservations required.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 6:30 - 8:00 pm
Science Lecture: Shocking Bodies: Electricity and Medicine in the 18th Century
Lecture by Dr. Paola Bertucci

Associate Professor of History and History of Medicine; Curator of the History of Science and Technology Division, Peabody Museum, Yale University 

Light refreshments precede the lecture, which begins at 7:00 pm. The Museum doors open at 6:20 pm.

Electrical experiments were all the rage in the eighteenth century. Before the invention of electric bulbs, batteries, or currents, the vivid light of electric sparks was employed to stage spectacular attractions for learned and lay audiences. This talk will illuminate the connections between the first uses of electricity in medicine and the fashionable performances that literally electrified audience members and their bodies.

Members and students with ID, free; non-members $15. Reservations required.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019 — 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Science Lecture: Doctors, Patients, and the Physical Examination
Lecture by James M. Edmonson, PhD

Chief Curator Emeritus of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum of Case Western Reserve University

Light refreshments precede the lecture, which begins at 7:00 pm. The Museum doors open at 6:20 pm.

In this lecture Dr. Edmonson explores how new diagnostic technologies, beginning with the stethoscope, transformed the physical exam. In 1800 doctors seldom touched their patients, and even felt that they could diagnose disease just by reading patient's letter describing their illness.  A century later, diagnosis involves a thorough physical examination and extensive use of instruments. How did that fundamental change in the doctor-patient relationship happen?

Free to members and students with valid ID, non-members $15. Reservations required. 

Contact Kate Dzikiewicz at (203) 413-6747 or for more information or questions.