Friday, January 16, 2009

And The Winner is...

This is a followup to the last Morbid Anatomy post about the unveiling of the Gretchen Worden portrait at the Mütter museum. As you might recall, Laura Lindgren offered to send a 2009 Mütter Museum calendar to the first Morbid Anatomy reader who correctly identified the instrument Gretchen holds in her hands in the portrait (see detail above). Well, the contest has been decided! Here is Laura's report:

In fact, we have TWO winners to the question "What is the instrument Gretchen holds in her hands in the portrait?"

Lana Thompson, author of The Wandering Womb was first to respond: "It’s a transurethral lithotripter."

And Christine Ruggere at Johns Hopkins Medical Library says, "I think that the instrument was used to crush bladder stones. It may be called a lithotrite. I think Gretchen demonstrated one once on the David Letterman show."

Indeed, the instrument is a lithotrite, used to crush calculi, specifically bladder stones; the transurethral lithotripter is also used for kidney stones.

Christine wins too for the added identification that Gretchen had demonstrated the litotrite in one of her three appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

Congratulations to Lana and Christine--and thanks to all who ventured a guess!

Our runners up are Scott Moore of, who guessed: "I am able to only guess that it's early 19thC and has something to do with lithotomy."

And Mark Rowley of the superb site Cabinet of Art and Medicine ventured a few guesses, among them "a stone crusher."

By the way, I happened to find a Flickr site from Tyler Love with some illustrations from the Illustrated Manual of Operative Surgery and Surgical Anatomy, 1861, at the University at Buffalo showing such an instrument in use; see above for one example.

Thanks to all who responded!

Laura Lindgren
Publisher, Blast Books
As an addendum, might I add that you might want to go check out the other wonderful images in Tyler Love's History of Medicine Collection @ UB Flickr collection; to do so, click here.


Lady Meerkat said...

That diagram of its use made me audibly wince!

Heathen Hermit said...

I've had periodic trouble with kidney stones, so I know quite well how painful they can be. Looking at that thing, however, I think I'd rather take my chances with the stones.