Saw used to amputate the bones in the hand, Europe, 1770-1790

Made:
1770-1790 in Europe

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Metacarpal bow-frame saw designed by Benjamin Bell, c. 1750

Invented by Benjamin Bell (1749-1806), a Scottish surgeon, this amputation saw was designed to amputate the bones in the hand – known as metacarpal bones. During Bell’s life time, surgery was carried out with limited pain relief as anaesthetics did not come into use until the 1840s.

It became traditional in the United Kingdom for a small bow saw like this one to be used for hand amputations. Elsewhere in Europe, wire saws were used. The ends of the wire saw were held in each hand and pulled to the left and then to the right in a sawing motion.

Details

Category:
Surgery
Collection:
Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
A600822
Materials:
blade, steel, frame, steel and handle, ebony, wood
type:
amputation saw
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • surgical equipment
  • surgical instrument
  • surgical saw