Skull and Brain Surgery Kit

Our Medical Artifact Collection includes some pretty amazing items. For instance, the 19th-century medical kits always impress, with their vibrant satin and velvet linings and beautifully crafted (though not necessarily sanitary) instruments.

One highlight is this 19th-century skull and brain surgery kit created by Arnold & Sons, a London-based surgical instrument manufacturer. The kit includes a trephine (with multiple saw bits), forceps, bone brush, and head saw known as a Hey’s saw.

Skull and brain surgery kit, 19th century. UCSF Artifact Collection, item 441.

Skull and brain surgery kit, 19th century. UCSF Artifact Collection, item 441.

A trephine is a T-shaped, hand-operated drill saw with a cylindrical blade. It would have been used to bore holes in the skull, allowing for the removal of bone and access to the brain. This kit includes multiple saw bits of different sizes.

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Detail of trephine, bone brush, and Hey’s saw. UCSF Artifact Collection, item 441.

A Hey’s saw is a double-bladed instrument that, thanks to its unique design, allows for variously angled cuts. It is named after William Hey, an English surgeon who helped refine the tool.

If you would like to see this, or any of our artifacts, in person, please make an appointment with the UCSF Archives and Special Collections.

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