Catalogue Number: 2907
The Firle eye magnet
Sub-Category: Equipment, surgical
Year Of Publication/Manufacture: 1939
Time Period: 1900 to 1939
Place Of Publication/Manufacture: Croydon, England
Description Of Item: Eye magnet from removing metal from the eye, magnetised cylindrical bar 105 mm long x 13 mm diameter, with four different exchangeable attachments, contained in a black leatherette covered case 113 x 70 x 22 mm with hinged lid with a press catch. The case is lined with purple velvet with blue 'silk' lining of the inside of the lid. The inside of the lid is marked THE/FIRLE/EYE MAGNET in gold letters. The lip of the case is marked MADE IN ENGLAND in gold filled impressed letters.
Historical Significance: The industrial revolution in the UK in the late 18th and 19th C transformed, expanded and centralised iron and steel manufacture. This increased the frequency of penetrating intra-ocular injury from metal objects. Apart from mechanical damage to the eye, included metal fragment can threaten sight by chemical toxicity necessitating removal of the foreign body to prevent this. Magnets have been used for removing intra-ocular metal since the 19thC. 'Giant' electromagnets was used although they were so large and powerful they sometimes did more damage. Smaller hand held permanent magnets were developed for intraocular foreign body removal but initially they did not have enough induction, New metals of iron, nickel and aluminium improved their inductive power. This instrument was first made in 1939 (see W.B. Harmen, Lancet 1939; 233 (6029), 638) and uses steel cobalt alloy. (See Obi, EE. The Firle Eye Magnet during the industrial revolution. J Trauma 70 (2): 519-520). Gowllands was a long standing maker of ophthalmic instruments. It was founded by William Gowlland in 1897, at the age of 27, in premises over a wheelwright's shop in Liverpool Road, making, amongst other things, Juler ophthalmoscopes. He was joined by his brothers Charles and Egbert. During the following years the product range widened to incorporate retinoscopes and other ophthalmic instruments. In 1908 the mass production of ophthalmic lenses was commenced. In 1998 Gowllands Limited was sold to Medicamenta of the Czech Republic. In May 2008, its name was changed to "Gowllands Medical Devices Ltd".
How Acquired: Donated by Estate of William Cooper, via Peter Lewis
Date Acquired: April 2016
Condition: Very good
Location: Archive room. West wall. Unit 3 Drawer 2