Pain, Pus and Blood

Almost half of all patients undergoing major surgery in Victorian times died, either from blood loss, shock or infection. No-one knew about germs and there were no anaesthetics to numb the pain, or antiseptics to keep the wound clean. Having an operation in the 1800s was terrifying!

Surgeons didn’t even go to medical college like they do today. They had to train as apprentices at private schools or universities, gaining practical experience in hospitals or the armed forces.

Surgeons spent most of their time treating simple problems. They bandaged wounds, set fractures, lanced boils and pulled teeth. Major operations were performed very rarely. A Victorian surgeon needed to work quickly, with a keen eye and a steady hand.

In this gruesome exhibition you can see how horrible surgery used to be, and how far we’ve come since.

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Exhibitions and events

Leeds 1842

Permanent exhibition

The sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian street in Leeds will transport you back in time to 1842 and we’ll introduce you to a range of characters who lived there at the time.   Queen...

Health Choices

Permanent exhibition

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Disease in Retreat

Permanent exhibition

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Life Zone

Permanent exhibition

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Fantastic Plastic

Permanent exhibition

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Activities from this museum

School visits

The Thackray Medical Museum opens its doors to 20,000 school students every...

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