TitleElectrical Department
DescriptionRecords of the Electrical Department, St Bartholomew's Hospital, 1930-1941, comprising:

Report, correspondence and memoranda, mostly from or to Elkin Percy Cumberbatch, head of the Electrical Department, concerning the possible introduction of 'Neo-Therapie' treatment;

Letter from Dr Albert Eidinow enquiring whether a new head of the Electrical Department has been appointed after the death of the previous encumbent, Elkin Percy Cumberbatch, 1939;

Correspondence and testimonial from an individual working on a theory that electrical treatment which causes spine vibrations will stimulate the brain, 1940-1941.
Related MaterialSixteen volumes of case notes of patients receiving treatment in the Electrical Department, Nov 1883-Nov 1895, see: SBHB/MR/23/1-2; volume of case notes concerning Out-Patients examined with X-rays, Jun 1896-Jun 1897, see: SBHB/MR/23/3; notice of closure of the department, see: Treasurer & Almoners Minutes, 31 Jan 1946 (ref: SBHB/HA/3/61) p282; records of the X-Ray and Radiotherapy Department, see: SBHB/RD.
Administrative historyStatic electricity had been used as a curative agent since 1745, but the first record of electrical treatment at a London hospital was in 1767 when a static machine was installed in the Middlesex Hospital. In 1777 the Governors of St Bartholomew's Hospital purchased a similar 'electrical machine' at a cost of £4 14 s for the treatment of patients, which was placed under the care of the Hospital's apothecary.

Medical electricity treatments, including galvanism, continued to be used in the Hospital over the subsequent years but a proper, dedicated Electrical Department was not founded until 1882. Physician William Edward Steavenson was appointed to take charge of the department in October 1882. The original department was situated in the room which was previously used as the Coroner's Court (where the Pathological Block now stands) and its arrangement was based on an already established department at Guy's Hospital which had opened many years earlier in 1836. Electrical therapies practiced in the early years of the department included galvanic baths, galvanism and faradic currents, static electricity and cauterization. Mostly they was used to treat or diagnose muscle and spinal paralysis or nerve injury, but medical electricity techniques were also tested on patients suffering from bladder problems, polio, neurosyphilis, meningitis and for the removal of tumours and to cause abortion in cases of extra-uterine foetation. On Steavenson's death, Dr Henry Lewis Jones was appointed head of the Electrical Department in 1891.

Lewis Jones was the first in the country to introduce sinusoidal current for use in arm and full length baths, and to recognise the importance of rhythmic variation in their strength. He also introduced cautery ionisation and a method of testing, by means of condenser discharges, muscle and nerve reactions. In 1911 a diathermy apparatus was installed in the department.

In April 1896, four months after Roentgen's publication of his discovery, the Hospital approved the purchase of electrical apparatus to power its new Roentgen ray equipment. The first X-ray plant was installed in a small room near the Henry VIII Gate under the charge of Hugh Walsham who had been appointed Assistant Medical Officer to the Electrical Department in 1896. In 1912 the X-ray Department separated, taking Walsham with it as its head, with Elkin Percy Cumberbatch becoming head of the Electrical Department.

Cumberbatch is seen as one of the founders of modern diathermy. At a time when diathermy was just beginning to be used for purposes other than surgical coagulation, he supported the view that effects of treatment was entirely thermal. Cumberbatch's hypothesis was later supported. At Bart's he developed the use of diathermy in the treatment of pelvic and cervical infections and came to identify a new syndrome that combined backache with depression and arthritis in menopausal women.

The department, like many others in the Hospital, closed at the outbreak of war in 1939. However it was decided in 1946 not to reopen it in its pre-war form. Instead its work was to be undertaken by a proposed new Rehabilitation Department.
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