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Saturday, 7 April 2018

Sink your teeth into this Museum

Sink your teeth into this Museum

The Tooth Stool
In this series of write-ups on well known, known and lesser known places let’s take a peek into the dream destination for any globe trotter, London that stand out for its scientific signature; be it for the cruise on Thames, the bridges, the architectural marvels or the monuments. For us, it was Science Tourism. This write up is on another unique destination but equally significant for anyone to visit.
Visit to a museum, and that too, a dental museum, doesn’t that sounds intriguing and interesting at the same time. The British Dental Museum houses around 25000 items that tell tale the development of dental profession in the United Kingdom. From as early as 17th century until present day, the exhibits that attract the visitors include dental chairs, dentures, drills, products for oral hygiene, and of course, the Waterloo teeth. 

Teeth and Dentures
 A serious thought to promote good oral health, or technically speaking preventive dentistry came into existence, in real sense around twentieth century. That led the individual dentists; industrial houses and organizations including public bodies to popularize oral hygiene and its impact on overall health status of an individual.

Dental care at home and for travel
Specimens of dissected human heads, which were used in past for teaching purpose and students to practice their manual dexterity, are on display. Since prior to the discovery and use of X-Rays in 1895, the only practical method of demonstration was through observing surgical operation or a dissection. However, cultural, religious, and climatic limitations led to the development of anatomical models made of varying materials, for demonstration to the budding dentists. 

The knowledge and understanding that we have today regarding oral hygiene, was not there in past. Toothbrushes were introduced just a little over 200 years ago and because of its exorbitant cost it could only be afforded by the rich people. Apart from these expensive items, at the Dental museum one can also witness the progress and development of different dental equipments; from simple scalers to complex computer operated machines. How ultra-sophisticated machines have taken over, with the passage of time, is worth looking at, in the museum.

Varying tooth related aspects are also depicted through a number of cartoons, artworks and the likes. The most fascinating thing that captivates one’s attention is the tooth-modeled stool to sit up on in the cozy ambience of the museum. 

French Cartoon Art
English Engravings


How is it possible that in Dental Museum we do not see teeth or denture? Well, the museum has a wide range of collection of natural to fabricated dentition; perfectly fitting both the aesthetic quality and the functionality.

The British Dental Museum is located at 64, Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8YS, and is open for visitors only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 13.00 and 16.00 hours.

Friday, 16 March 2018

A Journey into the Realms of Relief from Pain

A Journey into the Realms of Relief from Pain

In this series of write-ups on well known, known and lesser known places let’s take a peek into the dream destination for any globe trotter, London that stand out for its scientific signature; be it for the cruise on Thames, the bridges, the architectural marvels or the monuments. For us, it was Science Tourism.
Pain has always been a part of our life, and those suffering would resort to anything and everything that could relieve them. However, today we undergo the operative process with minimum suffering due to pain inflicted. We owe this painless procedure to the Science of Anesthesia and are indebted to the professionals often referred to as Anesthetist.   A peek into the historical development of this science would be the way of understanding, and acknowledging our gratitude towards it.
The developmental stages are true reflection of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. 

Anesthesia Heritage Centre (under the auspices of Association of Anesthetists from Great Britain and Ireland) houses the Anesthesia Museum, AAGBI archives and rare collection of books on the subject. It is a unique resource for research into history of anesthesia.

The Anesthesia Museum was set up with the collection of historic anesthetic apparatus donated by A Charles King in 1953. In 1986, it was developed as first museum of its kind. Many more exhibits have been added ever since; from Morton’s demonstration of ether inhalation in 1846 to modern anesthetic machines and appliances can be seen today.  Due to space constraint, large size equipments and apparatus are not displayed; however, the number of objects showcased is enough to get the whiff of it.

The exhibits are displayed under a dozen of sections taking us on journey from painful to painless. Each of the unit has its own story to tell but with a common ending, the end of pain, suffering and agony. The contributions and the contributors are duly acknowledged at relevant stages of the need based development. 

The displays take us from anesthesia before 1846, followed by the origins of modern anesthesia. Different anesthetic agents from ether to chloroform to nitrous oxide and apparatuses from inhalants to intravenous administration have been showcased in the sequential order. The developmental stages of anesthetic agents, including local anesthesia that followed can be witnessed in this museum, from spray over skin to injection in the spinal cord followed by epidural or blocking nerve roots from the spinal cord with an anesthetic agent. Technological advancements that took place can be traced through the agents, devices and equipments showcased.

Any surgical maneuver, be it small or large is painful and the priority area for the anesthetists was, is and would be pain relief in childbirth and for dentistry.  The displays further explore through the critical role played by the anesthesia during war period, worldwide, exhibited appropriately as ‘silver lining through dark clouds shinning – ‘Anesthesia during First World War’.

The important information regarding the safety issues in anesthesia are also shared while moving on to the founding of modern anesthesia that is put on show. And at the terminal phase, it relives ‘the price of a mile’; the pain, suffering, and the relief.

For those who would like to pay visit to this scientific heritage, a testimony of how and what made and make us feel free of agony of pain, Anesthesia Heritage Centre is located at 21, Portland Place, London and is open from 10.00 to 16.00 hrs, Monday through Friday. However, it remains closed during Christmas until New Year.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Stepping into the time well

 Stepping into the time well 

Well – a word that epitomizes both, a state of healthy body and a water body; the former heavily depends on the latter one. Though there are a number of step wells in the semi-arid region of Gujarat and Rajasthan, can also be found in the adjoining states of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, but the one in Adalaj village (Gandhinagar distict), Gujarat, is a unique one. Commonly called as Adalaj in vav or Adalaj Step-well, it is a perfect embodiment of varied sciences including architectural, social, and political, where every stone has a story to tell, every step has history written, and every level has marvels carved out, all for a commitment towards society.

As the narrative goes by, in 1498 AD, Adalaj and surrounding semi arid region, erstwhile Dandai Desh, was reeling under severe draught. The then ruler Rana Veer Sinh of Vaghela dynasty, as a social commitment, decided to dig up a well, not only for the natives but also the travelers passing through that area. He had just commissioned the work and was attacked by Mahmud Begada, which resulted into the death of Veer Sinh. His widow, Roop Ba also known as Roodabai, decided to end her life rather than falling into the hands of the invader. But Mahmud Begada offered an alternative to Roodabai to marry him rather than ending her life. She gave a thought and agreed but only on one condition; marriage to solemnize only after the completion of the well. Mahmud Begada readily agreed and completed the work of Step-well in the year 1499 AD, done more aesthetically than what was envisioned by Veer Sinh. Roodabai, on seeing the fulfillment of their social responsibility, a political commitment and up keeping the tradition ended her life by jumping into the very well.

Thus, architecturally, Adalaj Step-well is a confluence of Indo-Islamic style blended so perfectly that it needs a keen eye to differentiate between the two. It is 75.3 meters in length and is laid out in north-south direction. Flights of stairs from east, west and south directions reach up to the first level where there is a large platform. This platform has an octagonal opening and rests on 16 pillars. The four corners of the platform have four built-in shrines. The descent is however from south side while the well is in north direction. Being three-faced, it is a Jaya type of step-well and the pillars being square with recesses are of the Bhadrak type. It presents a mesmerising procession of designs, decorated columns, ornamental balconies with exquisite carvings, carved walls and niches with deities, elephants, flowers, birds and chhatris all through its five floors of length and breadth underground. The octagonal spaces unfold in front of the eyes while the steps take one to the circular well. 

For the visitors this five centuries old Adalaj ni vav, might present a varied perspective; for some an example of social responsibility, or political commitment, or architectural marvel but above all, it is a scientific heritage standing tall into the depth of history.

Adalaj ni vav or Adalaj Step-well is just 5 km from Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat.