Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A dozen bizarre devices from medicine's dark past

These extraordinary objects are among 2500 featured in Brought to Life, the London Science Museum's new multimedia website exploring centuries of medical history.

Jugum penis, United Kingdom, 1880-1920

Guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of at least half our readers, this device was intended as a treatment for "nocturnal incontinence" and to prevent masturbation. It was designed to deter nighttime emissions by causing enough pain to waken the sleeper if an erection threatened.

Until relatively recently, masturbation was considered a moral weakness and at least partly responsible for a whole range of debilitating medical conditions. Now there is some suggestion that the opposite may be true: frequent self-pleasuring could protect against prostate cancer.

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