With Nicola Tesla’s 157th birthday just passing, we find ourselves celebrating science, progress and electricity in his name. Around the time of its discovery and harnessing, electricity swept through the community as a great new innovation, and to some of the medical community, a cure-all remedy had surfaced.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the advent of electricity and the Industrial Revolution changed the face of medicine as people knew it. Many physicians and inventors began utilizing electricity in their treatment of all sorts of ailments. Looking back, we are grateful for the advances in medicine made in this time period, but it’s also fun to remember the epic failures and quack medical devices that had their fifteen minutes of fame before turning into doorstops or gathering dust in antique stores.
Dr. Scott’s Electric Corset
According to Dr. Scott, "...there is hardly a disease which Electricity and Magnetism will not benefit or cure," and that is exactly the claim made with the sale of these $3 Electric Corsets produced and sold in 1883. Not only does it promise to ward off disease with a flow of electric current through the body, it also keeps the wobbly bits in! Who could ask for more?
Dr. John Butler’s Electro-Massage Machine
The fifth medical device to be modified for use in the home, The Electro-Massage Machine was invented to save doctor's time when it came to treating the defunct condition of hysteria in women. Hysteria, caused by sexually pent up energy, was treated with manual stimulation. But with the progression of electricity, hysteria was able to be cured at home with a miracle vibrating device. Hysteria fell off the medical charts around 1952, but the technology is still going strong.
Vacuum Stimulated Hair Regrowth
New vacuum technology wasn't just for cleaning floors anymore, it was thought that stimulating the scalp with alternating air pressure and vacuum suction would stimulate blood vessels and eventually cure baldness.
The electric bath was literally just that. Physicians used water in the bath to conduct a flow of electricity as a treatment for just about anything you can imagine. I wonder if this is why they tell us not to swim in a lightening storm.
Thompson Plaster Electrical Cabinet (UV Generator)
Thompson Plaster Electrical Cabinet provided a very popular treatment of the day. Violet Rays (UV rays) were thought to have healing powers, and applying them to whatever body part needed assistance, with a conductive glass device attached to a violet ray machine, would cure anything from baldness and skin diseases to gynecological problems.
The Owen Electric Belt
Electrical belts were usually advertised by a variety of robust and muscle laden men, who owed all of their success to a belt that provided them with a consistent electric shock. It was meant to cure weakness both inside and out, including kidney problems, lethargy, back pain, erectile disfunction and much much more.
There are so many more strange and questionable devices and treatments from way back when, there are even entire museums dedicated to some of the unbelievable things a person will go through when promised life changing results. It's the placebo effect in full swing, and if you think we've evolved beyond such gullibility, think again. Take a look at the infomercials and fad health solutions all around you today. Do you remember the electric fitness belt that promised a 6-pack from just wearing the thing? Or how about the wrinkle creams that make you look 2o years younger in just 15 minutes? Being wary of anything that seems too good to be true may be called skepticism, but if it saves you from foolish choices, what's wrong with that?