In the history of medicine, machines became crucial parts of the diagnostic and treatment process in the first half of the 20th century. Scientists and doctors experimented with some really strange devices, and they developed a lot of creepy-looking health equipment—at least some of which seems almost horrific, seen through the eyes of today. The following 22 instruments are partly scary, partly weird, and partly awesome—just as inventions should be.
Pre-PET headgear (Positron Emission Tomography), built by the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Instrumentation Division to study the working brain.
Large-sized eye models, moved by two small motors, developed by aero medical researchers.
Winston Churchill’s personal pressure chamber, created to enable him to make high-altitude flights safely.
Image: Life, 10 Feb 1947.
Three plastic humanoid shells, filled with sodium chloride solution, used for measuring radioactivity.
Image: Health Physics/IHM
Bergonic chair for giving general electric treatment for psychological effect, in psycho-neurotic cases. (World War One era.)
Artificial kidney machine, ca. 1950.
Roentgen steed, designed to hold children as they sit for chest X-rays, 1957.
This old man is sitting in a machine that is used to stimulate blood circulation in the legs.
Los Alamos chemist, Wright H. Langham with Plastic Man, used to simulate human radiation exposures, 1959.
Electro-retinogram: apparatus devised to measure the electric potential of the retina.
Circa 1900: A woman inside an Electric Bath at the Light Care Institute.
Image: Reinhold Thiele/Thiele/Getty Images
The first electrocardiograph, introduced by Cambridge Scientific Instruments.
Image: Central Press/Getty Images
1919: A woman wearing a flu mask during the flu epidemic after the First World War.
Image: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Children around a radiating glow of ultraviolet light at the Institute of Ray Therapy.
Image: Fox Photos/Getty Images
Measuring the brainwaves, 1940.
Image: Fox Photos/Getty Images
1955: A portable respirator, or iron lung, designed to enable patients to recuperate at home.
Image: Hans Meyer/BIPs/Getty Images
1960: Dr G. H. Byford stands under an optokinetic drum wearing a contact lens with a miniature lamp cemented to the lens, during an experiment to investigate the reflex movements of the eyes and their association with visual illusions, at the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine in Farnborough.
Image: Harry Thompson/Evening Standard/Getty Images
1960: A wire suit designed to measure body temperatures while researching the physiological effects of high speed and space travel.
Image: Ron Case/Keystone Features/Getty Images
1955: A rotating cobalt machine swinging around the body of a patient, attacking cancerous tumors.
Image: Carsten/Three Lions/Getty Images
A physician adjusts the beam path of the 2,000,000 volt Deep Therapy X-Ray Machine used to treat cancer at the Francis Delafield Hospital in New York City.
Image: Grundy/Getty Images
Cobalt “bomb” treatment of a patient at a Paris clinic.
Image: Népszerű Technika, 1959 április
A therapy unit installed at the Oak Ridge hospital in 1955 used a source of radioactive cesium-137 to kill diseased tissue, allowing maximum dose of radiation to the cancerous area and minimizing effects to healthy tissue elsewhere.
Image: AP/Oak Ridge Associated Universities