Medical Instruments

Medical Instruments

Medical instruments are well represented in the collections at Aberdeen University. They highlight the strong links the University has with medical teaching over several centuries. Many were bequeathed by eminent medical practitioners who studied or worked here. They reflect changes in our understanding of medicine over time and across cultures.

X-ray display light box.

There are several objects from the 18th century and early 19th centuryincluding a ‘fire engine’ heart resuscitation unit from 1800, an unusual horizontal microscope, and models of the eye showing the effect of spectacles.

From the mid to late 20th century there is a large collection of X- ray apparatus, including a portable X-ray used in TB screening vans which were common in the 1960s. There is also a colour-blindness testing kit from c. 1900, and an ear examination kit from the 1940s.


Catalogue of Instruments in Museum MSU 1439/2/1

A surgical museum catalogue prepared by John Shennan Young, c. 1939, contains detailed descriptions of surgical instruments in Marischal Museum, including reference to manufacturers, history and use.


A small collection of historical scientific instruments shows how pathological specimens were prepared for examination. This contains microscopes, microtomes and slide preparation equipment. There are some non-medical instruments used for medical purposes which have been seized as part of criminal investigations, including objects used in an illegal abortion house in the 1940s.

Amputation kit ABDUA:36872


The Museum holds a collection of Scottish instruments dating from 4000 BC - 1929 AD, brought together by Professor Ogston. There is also a collection of Roman and Greek instruments from the Pompeii region in Italy, containing many objects purchased by the medic and traveller Robert Wilson. This collection includes surgical and domestic medical objects, both original and reproduction. Additional surgical instruments were donated to the Museum by the University Surgery Department. There are a small number of original instruments from ancient Egypt.

For more information on the University museum and archival collections please search the online catalogue