Bizarre Medical Treatments through History (1900-1940)

When X-ray was discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, the New York Times was so skeptical that they referred to the medical breakthrough as the “alleged discovery of how to photograph the invisible”. It took a very long time for medical doctors and technologists to figure out safe treatments and new developing technology safely.

While the history of medicine is constantly developing and improving, it is filled with wild stories of bizarre medical treatments and procedures that aimed to make people feel better. Here are some of them below:

A chest X-ray in progress at Dr. Maxime Menard’s radiology department at the Cochin hospital in Paris (1914). Mendard would later lose his finger to side effects from operating the X-ray machine.

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A Wiener Ambulance with patients in ‘layers’ in a horse drawn wooden carriage. The sides are partly open, but have curtains. The ambulance men are members of the Viennese Voluntary Rescue Society founded in 1881

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Dr. Elizabeth Bruyn sits in the rear of her horse drawn ambulance in the United States (1911)

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Medical office in a hospital train (1900)

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In an effort to make childbirth as painless as possible, a patient inhales analgesia during labor whilst a nurse looks over her (July 1939)

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Administering oxygen to a newborn in Berlin, Germany (July 1939)

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A patient lying in an artificial respiration machine called an iron lung (1938)

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Nurses practice operating a respiratory jacket that performs a similar function to an iron lung (1938)

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A young patient, Gerald Blackburn, in an oxygen tent at Princess Beatrice Hospital (1937)

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A woman using an electric inhaling apparatus which produces a medicated fog used in the treatment of colds and influenza (1929)

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Patients at a hospital in Germany inhaling powdered medicines such as menthol and eucalyptus to heal respiratory diseases (1930)

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A woman wearing a flu mask during the flu epidemic which followed the First World War (1919)

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R. Dubois anesthetizing machine in France (1913)

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Lieutenant Radtke presses air into his lungs in a constant height with a mercury column, while the doctor checks his blood pressure (1932)

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Children using a light bath in Berlin, Germany (1929)

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A man enjoys a sun-ray lamp (1930)

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The new ‘hip massage machine’ from the United States (1928)

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Post Office Department Inspector DF Angier (left) and Dr. LF Kebler, formerly of the Food and Drug Administration, try out a stretching device which claimed to increase height by 2 to 6 inches (1931)

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A young woman holds her arms and legs in four water bathes with electric current, to improve blood circulation (1938)

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Women operate the new stretching machine for surgical dressing at the Red Cross headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio (1915)

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The modern Roentgen ‘look through’ machine, which prevents any injury to the treating physician, Frankfurt, Germany (1929)

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A doctor wears protective clothing during an outbreak of plague in Manchuria (1912)

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Partially dissected cadavers on tables in the dissecting room at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA (1902)

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