Scientific instruments of yore

5 minutes

Breakthroughs, quackery and strange beauty: the afterlife of outmoded medical devices

Behind its modest storefront in Peekskill in New York state, the Early Electrics antique and custom lighting shop doubles as a museum of obsolete medical equipment and scientific models. Amassed by Steve Erenberg over 30 years, the collection is a whirlwind tour of early medical science, with promising prototypes and what Erenberg calls ‘quack devices’ offering a glimpse into the pervasive ailments and the (sometimes snake-oil) remedies of the recent past. But Erenberg appreciates the items more for their aesthetic qualities than their historical significance, finding beauty in the design of the tools, many of which were crafted with extreme care before the age of mass-production.

Video by Science Friday

Producer: Luke Groskin

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