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Mind-Boggling Medical History

 Library and archive services 23 Oct 2017 Library

Blowing tobacco smoke into the anus of a semi-conscious individual will revive them… 

RCN Library staff discussing the new board game Mind-Boggling Medical History

What do you think? Is this a current medical theory? A disproved practice? Or entirely made-up?

The RCN Library and Archives Service is exploring the weirder side of medical and healthcare history and current practices in an educational game, designed to challenge preconceptions and show how ideas in medicine change for a variety of reasons.

Mind-Boggling Medical History is a card game we’re developing with the Constructing Scientific Communities project at the University of Oxford. We were funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to expand a simple ten card game into a pack of 50 cards, to be accompanied by teaching resources to enable the game to be used in teaching sessions for history and nursing and medical students. There will also be an online version of the game.

We’re currently testing the game at focus groups in London and Oxford, and will be trialling the online version in the RCN Library and Heritage Centre towards the end of the year. Look out for further details, or get in touch if you’d like to know more.

And finally, for the curious… the statement at the start of this blog is actually a disproved medical theory. Unlike the ones we made up, this was once put into practice!

Blowing tobacco smoke into the anus was a method of reviving those thought to have drowned. In 1774, two London doctors formed The Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Dead from Drowning (later renamed the catchier Royal Humane Society). The Society paid money to anyone who successfully revived a seemingly drowned person, and placed tobacco resuscitation kits at strategic points along the Thames. The kits were based on the reasoning that some of the best treatments for drowning were warmth and the administration of stimulating vapours. 

Many of these sets still exist in museums, including those that will be on display in the new Science Museum Medical Galleries in 2019.


Page last updated - 05/09/2018