Electroconvulsive therapy machine

1940-1945 in England
The Edison and Swan Electric Light Company Limited

Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

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

Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) machine made in the early 1940s by Edison Swan Co. Ltd. to the specifications of W Grey Walter and used at the Burden Neurological Institute. Designed to give an electrical stimulus from the AC mains supply at a voltage varying from 60 to 150 volts, for a short preset period of time of typically 0.2 seconds. Use of this machine was discontinued in the 1970s.

Serial no. SS35. Edison Swan labels appear to be apinted over. GRS stamped on one of the electrodes

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a controversial psychiatric treatment. It was developed in Italy in 1938. ECT machines transmit electric currents to the brain in timed pulses. This causes a massive convulsion or seizure. It was thought possible to ‘shock’ a patient out of a severe mental disorder.

This ECT machine may appear crude. However, it had a level of sophistication in that it was adjustable. It administered shocks ranging from 60-150 volts for a pre-set period of time, typically 0.2 seconds. The machine was produced in the 1940s. This was a few years before the first psychoactive drugs became available in 1953. Electroconvulsive therapy had always been controversial. Psychoactive drugs quickly became a competing therapy in psychiatric care. This ECT machine was used at Burden Neurological Institute until it was discontinued in the 1970s.

On display

Science Museum: Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

If you are visiting to see this object, please contact us in advance to make sure that it will be on display.


Psychology, Psychiatry & Anthropometry
Object Number:
metal, plastic
each electrode: 80 mm x 170 mm 12.345 kg
electroconvulsive therapy machine
The Burden Neurological Institute

Cite this page


We encourage the use and reuse of our collection data.

Data in the title, made, maker and details fields are released under Creative Commons Zero

Descriptions and all other text content are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence

Using our data


Download catalogue entry as json

Download manifest IIIF

Our records are constantly being enhanced and improved, but please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information shown on this website.