Vaginal speculum, late 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made by Mathieu of Paris, this vaginal speculum was invented by Marie Boivin (1773-1841), one of the foremost French midwives of the 19th century. A speculum is a metal instrument used to dilate an orifice or canal, permitting internal examination. Vaginal specula slowly came into use in the diagnosis and treatment of women's disorders in the 19th century. This type is said to have been used by Philippe Ricord (1799-1889) when treating Empres Eugenie of France (1826-1920).