Museum of Ancient Inventions: Forceps

Forceps, Rome (Italy), 79 CE

These forceps, basically a type of surgical pincers, are based on a set that were so well-crafted they have been little improved upon in nearly two thousand years. Found at Pompeii and dating to 79 CE, they are of such superb quality that any modern surgeon would be proud to use them.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Elizabeth Schott ’99

The process of reproducing a pair of forceps involved bending, sanding and buffing two lengths of brass and joining them with a small pin. Small grooves were cut to ensure a slip-free grip, and the arms were carefully aligned so there would be no gaps.

Sources, Resources and Links

Allbutt, T. Clifford. Greek Medicine in Rome: The Fitzpatrick Lectures on the History of Medicine Delivered at the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1909-1910 with Other Historical Essays. New York: B. Blom, 1970.

Bliquez, Lawrence J. Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1994.

Lund, Fred B. Greek Medicine. New York: P. B. Hoeber, Inc., 1936.

Peterson, William Ferdinand. Hippocratic Wisdom, for Him Who Wishes to Pursue Properly the Science of Medicine: A Modern Appreciation of Ancient Scientific Achievement. Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas, 1946.

Reiche, Cynthia Dalzell. The Roman Medicine Profession: The Art of Assimilation. South Hadley, MA: n.p., 1977.

Soranus, of Ephesus. Soranus’ Gynæcology. Oswei Temkin, trans. Baltimore: Jogns Hopkins UP, 1991.

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