A Shocking Box – Military Orthopaedics in Bristol, 1916


orthopedic instrument

This box from the hospital’s collection contains the Smart-Bristow faradic apparatus. Our box is probably late 1920s but it is almost exactly the same as the model which would have been used in the First World War at Beaufort War Hospital.

The device would send electromagnetically charged voltages at a desired degree and frequency into the patient’s limbs in order to contract damaged joints and muscles to stimulate them. During the First World War the apparatus was improved – making it less painful and ensuring the shock was better directed – by the British orthopaedic surgeon Walter Rowley Bristow (1882-1947) who had joined the Shepherd’s Bush Orthopaedic Centre in 1916. This pain-free method of electrical nerve stimulation was first described in Bristow’s 1917 book ‘The Treatment of Joint and Muscle Injuries’.