Tonsillotome (France), 1855
This is a Tonsillotome.
Invented by American physician Phillip Syng Physick in 1828, the tonsillotome presented a convenient way to partially remove tonsils, transforming the tonsillotomy, or partial tonsil removal, into a routine procedure. Physick’s original "tonsil guillotine" used a razor blade to compress the tonsil and cut it from front to back. The tonsillotome required no other instruments and considerably less skill than a scalpel and forceps. In fact, a doctor could perform a tonsillotomy with one hand and no assistant. There was minimal pain using this instrument—most doctors worked without anesthetic. Some practitioners customized and modified tonsillotomes to suit their individual needs and styles. In 1855, Alfred-Armand- Louis-Marie Velpeau designed this ornate example with an ivory handle and gold loops for the fingers; spears to hold the tonsil; and a sickle-shaped knife, rather than a blade, to sever it. Most doctors found his model impractical and awkward, and variations by other practitioners followed.
It is credited
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1978.0874.02.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 8.5 x 2.8 x 27.8 cm (3 3/8 x 1 1/8 x 10 15/16 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.