Mercurial cream used to treat syphilis, England, 1880-1941

1880-1941 in London
Burroughs Wellcome and Company Limited

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Science Museum Group Collection
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Mercurial cream made by Burroughs, Wellcome and Company, England, ten glass vials, carton

Mercury was used as a common treatment for the sexually transmitted disease syphilis. Mercury had been a popular ‘cure’ for syphilis since the 1400s, although we now regard it as too toxic to use. The label reads “Made in accordance with the most recent formula as used by Col[onel] Lambkin, R.A.M.C.” The R.A.M.C. stands for the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1891 almost seven per cent of all medical discharges from the army were caused by venereal diseases and their effects. Venereal disease affected the health of soldiers who needed to be in top condition to face the enemy. Colonel Lambkin researched widely on syphilis and other STIs such as gonorrhoea, both in Britain and in the colonies of the British Empire.


Materia Medica & Pharmacology
Object Number:
cardboard, glass and materia medica
syphilis treatment
Unknown source