The study of the development of medical technologies — instruments, devices, prostheses and other implements — is one of the most exciting ways to decode the history of medicine. Some of these items have remained largely unchanged for 300 years, while others have transformed beyond recognition. The Museum’s collection includes everything from ancient implements used by shamans and folk healers, to surgical instruments and electrotherapy machines, to artificial ventilation devices, stethoscopes, x-ray scanners, electrocardiographs, prostheses, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and many other items and appliances produced from the early 20th century till the 1970s.
This model was used in animal experiments to prove that the artificial circulation of blood throughout the body could be maintained throughout an operation. Artificial circulation machines continue to be indispensable in modern heart and lung surgery.
This device was used for physical therapy. It belonged to Evgeny Ganike (1869–1948), a colleague of the famous Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936).
These inflatable prostheses were introduced experimentally in 1970 for cases of erectile dysfunction. The creator of this item is the Latvian surgeon Viktors Kalnbērzs (b. 1928) — famous for performing the first sex reassignment surgery in the Soviet Union back in 1970.
Darsonvalisation is a type of electrotherapy named after its inventor, French physicist Jacques-Arsène d'Arsonval (1851‒1940). This instrument applies a high-frequency impulse current of variable intensity to the skin to produce a positive effect on blood circulation, the metabolism and the central nervous system. This method has been used by physical therapists and cosmetologists for over a century.
These instruments were used for surgical manipulations such as the amputation of extremities, extraction of bullets and wound bleeding suppression.
This is an extremely rare model because production was discontinued shortly after it was introduced. The women on whom the equipment was used had an allergic reaction to the material used in the face mask.
The first glass human body was produced in 1927 for the German Museum of Hygiene in Dresden to educate the public and promote good health. During the interwar period, such mannequins were displayed throughout Germany, America and the USSR. This model of the human body on a rotating base displays the circulatory and nervous systems and internal organs clearly and at scale, with dedicated lighting options. During the Dresden bombardment in World War II, numerous unique models were destroyed, but serial production was resumed after the war and continued up until 1990. This glass figure has been in the Museum’s collection since 1963.
Condoms have been around for millennia: historical evidence indicates that ancient Egyptians used linen condoms, the Chinese produced theirs from silk, the Japanese made leather ones and the Romans manufactured them from goat bladders. In Mediaeval Europe, condoms were made from cloth or animal intestines — by the 15th century, their use was dictated not only by contraception, but also by venereal disease prevention. However, the triumphant march of the condom began in 1844, when Charles Goodyear (1800‒1860) discovered the method of vulcanisation to make rubber both elastic and durable. The condoms displayed at the Museum used to be issued to Third Reich soldiers.
These GDR-produced instruments were used in order to examine lung disease patients at a number of hospitals in Riga from the late 1950s until the early 1980s.