Magneto-electric machine

Joseph Gray & Son (estab. 1849, closed 1965)
Used to treat patients with nervous diseases in the mid to late 19th century, electromagnetic inductions machines like this one were cranked manually to generate an electromagnetic charge, resulting in a patient experiencing a tingling or muscle contraction in the body when holding the two charged electrodes. This prompted questions about the potential therapeutic benefits of electricity, and such machines were tried and recommended for al manner of mental and physical illnesses, and were the original 'shock therapy' machines. They were never subjected to contolled therapeutic trials however, but relied rather on individual testimonials. Reported beneficial results would have been from the placebo effect rather than any specific therapeutic activity. They fell into disrepute as inefficacious.

The machine is housed in a wooden case and includes other components including two bronze tubes and a key for the case.
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Object detail

brass, other metal, paint, bakelite, cotton-covered wire, string, wood, varnish, velvet, paper, ink
12.0 x 26.0 x 12.0 cm (case)
Accession Number
Credit line
Gift of Mrs L J Balfour to the University of Melbourne, 1967; transferred to the Medical History Museum
name/inscriptions ▫ on label set in lid: 'IMPROVED/PATENT MAGNETO ELECTRIC MACHINE/FOR NERVOUS DISEASES/(directions)/Joseph Gray & Son,/Truss Works, Sheffield.', with images of the machine being used on patients and medals won at exhibitions ▫ case
inscriptions ▫ 'Electric machine for treating/patients with nervous diseases,/ca. 1885./Presented by Mrs L.T.Balfour/University of Melbourne Collection' ▫ display card
Object Type
Medical History Museum Category


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