Set of obstetrical instruments, mid 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cased obstetrical instrument set containing several pairs of obstetrical forceps and other equipment, manufactured by Arnold & Sons of London. Dr William Chamberlain devised the first obstetrical forceps in the late 16th century. Two tong-like blades were inserted separately into the mother's birth canal and around the baby's head, then locked together to ease the baby out. In 1752 the English surgeon William Smellie (1697-1763) improved the design with interlocking blades and a curve to fit the pelvis, and this basic type is still in use today. All-metal forceps can be sterilised but the ones in this set, from around the 1850s, have ebony handles and were therefore harder to clean.