top of page

Unique Discovery in Midwifery Dummy

Add modern technique to old training material and what you get is a rather unique discovery: an eighteenth century Dutch dummy used for midwifery training containing human skeleton parts in both the female body and the baby doll. The dummy is part of the medical collection of Museum Boerhaave in the city of Leiden, a museum of the history of science and medicine. The museum announced its findings this Friday.

In itself, the use of real bones in medical training wasn’t unusual in the old days, in an effort to get as close to reality as possible, the museum reports. The uniqueness of this particular chamois-leather dummy however, lies in the fact that both parts contain original bones. On top of that, the museum claims that the baby doll might be the most complete specimen in the world.

The dummy was subjected to a thorough investigation after the curator noticed that the supposedly wooden pelvis looked a lot like bone. The Leiden University Medical Centre made a CT-scan, reconstructions and three-dimensional images. The curator’s suspicion proved to be right: real human bone parts were used in the pelvis and the lowest dorsal vertebra. Furthermore – and to everybody’s surprise – the research revealed that the doll contains an almost complete baby skeleton.

Currently, further research into the date of ‘birth’ and the origins of the dummy is being done. Study of available literature has identified the Leiden-based physician Gottlieb Salomon (1774 – 1865) as its possible ‘father’. In an article written in 1803, he describes making a midwifery dummy with striking resemblance to the one in the possession of Museum Boerhaave.

Unfortunately, those of you who want to have a look at the dummy in real life, have to be patient for about a year. Museum Boerhaave is currently being renovated and reopening has been scheduled for November 18, 2017.

Photo's: Hielco Kuipers - Scans: LUMC

* * *

bottom of page