Saturday, January 21, 2012

Invention of the Day: Chamberlen obstetrical forcepts.

Peter Chamberlen, "the elder" (1530-1631), is considered to be the inventor of a breakthrough medical instrument for helping women deliver babies. Before the invention, women faced a high probability of pelvic deformity caused by childbirth. The Chamberlen family of accoucheurs (male physicians-midwifes) managed to keep the instrument secret for over 100 years.
The Chamberlens went to fantastic lengths to keep their secret. According to Graham (1950) they are said to have arrived at the house of the woman to be delivered in a special carriage. They were accompanied by a huge wooden box adorned with gilded carvings. It always took two of them to carry the box and everyone was led to believe that it contained some massive and highly complicated machine. The labouring woman was blindfold lest she should see the “secret.” Only the Chamberlens were allowed in the locked lying-in room. (P. Dunn, 1999)

The Chamberlen doctor dynasty lasted five generations

In the beginning of the 18th century, with no male heir in the family (women could not become doctors at the time), Hugh the Younger let the secret to leak out.

- P. Dunn. 1999. The Chamberlen family (1560-1728) and obstetric forceps.
- J. Drife. 2002. The start of life: a history of obstetrics.
- The Chamberlen Family Secret.
- Wikipedia. Forcepts in childbirth.

tags: invention, control, business, model, health, history

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