restricted access Medical Machines as Symbols of Science?: Promoting Electrotherapy in Victorian Canada


This article tackles a common assumption in the historiography of medical technology, that new medical instruments in the nineteenth century were universally seen as symbols of the scientific nature of medical practice. The article examines the strategies used by Jenny Trout, the first woman in Canada licensed to practice medicine, and J. Adams, a homeopathic physician, to advertise electrotherapy to the residents of Toronto in the 1870s and 1880s. While electrotherapy involved complex electrical technology, the doctors in this study did not draw attention to their instruments as proof of the legitimacy of their practice. In fact the technology is almost entirely absent from their promotional texts. While both doctors wanted their practice to be associated with scientific medicine, neither saw their instruments as immediately or obviously symbolic of science.