Scarificator (From the Collection #2)

The Story

By the 19th century, the scarificator was an essential tool in the practice of bloodletting. First developed in the early 1700s as a more humane and efficient bloodletting instrument than lancets and fleams, scarificators had multiple blades that shot out with the press of a spring-loaded lever creating an instantaneous series of parallel cuts in the skin of the patient. Scarificators could be square or round in shape, but by 1790, octagonal boxes such as this one were favoured in Britain and North America.

Although scarificators were usually used in conjunction with cupping, there is evidence they were also sometimes used by physicians other purposes. Long after the use of scarificators for bloodletting had gone out of fashion in Western medicine, Dr. Howard Box and Dr. G.S. Cronk employed this instrument for smallpox vaccinations in China in 1918.

The Specs

ACCESSION # (Web Link):996010001
Object Name:Scarificator
Manufacturer (Country):Unknown (Unknown)
Date Made:Circa 1918
MESH Code:Bloodletting — instrumentation
MM= Bloodletting — scarificator

Additional Images

About “From the Collection”

“From the Collection” was a project originally published in 2010 to the Museum of Health Care’s website by former Curator Paul Robertson, with the goal being to highlight some the Museum’s most unique items that might be missed in our collection. Each artifact is presented as a bite-sized story, related information, and a link to it’s fully detailed entry on our free online digital catalogue!

Posts in the “From the Collection” series were originally created with support from Funded by the Ontario Museums and Technology Fund. The support of the Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, is acknowledged.


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