Medicine chest

Wooden medicine chest. The top contains twelve square bottles (eight with glass stoppers, four with brass lids). The front opens like a cupboard to reveal six drawers with ivory knobs; it contains a balance and weights. The smaller drawers contain two small phials, a prescription and an advertisement for Dalby's carminative.

Surgeons, like other professionals of the day, were expected to provide their own tools and equipment, including herbs, drugs and surgical instruments. They were the main medical officers on board ship. They had lower status than physicians but were highly skilled at amputation. At other times they had to minister to the general medical needs of the crew. A warship would carry one surgeon or surgeon’s mate for about every 200 men.

Object Details

ID: TOA0121
Collection: Lifesaving and medical equipment
Type: Medicine chest
Display location: Display - Atlantic Gallery
Date made: circa 1808
Exhibition: The Atlantic: Slavery, Trade, Empire; War and Conflict
People: Foster, Robert Lionel
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, R Lionel Foster Collection
Measurements: Overall: 230 x 250 x 205 mm

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