The Chirurgeon’s Box: The Clockwork Saw

Although the clockwork saw dates from the 19th century, I couldn’t resist including a blurb about it here as it seems to me the very thing from which horror movies are made.

The English surgeon, WHB Winchester (1816-1901), designed an amputation saw which worked using a self-winding mechanism. Unfortunately, the saw was difficult to control and lacked the precision of other amputation devices. Because of its unpredictable nature, the saw was just as likely to remove the assistant’s fingers as it was to remove the patient’s limb. It was cumbersome and awkward–certainly not an instrument a surgeon would want to use when speed was crucial to the conscious patient awaiting surgery.

Fortunately for Winchester’s patients (as well as his assistants), the clockwork saw never made it past the prototype phase. Nevertheless, should you wish to see this terrifying instrument up close and personal–without risking life and limb–you can visit it at the Hunterian Museum in London.

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