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H4040 Post-mortem instruments and case, owned and used by Dr Charles Nathan (1816-1872), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, metal / ivory / wood, made by Thomas Weedon, London, 1830-1860. Click to enlarge.

Post-mortem instruments, 1830 - 1860

Made by Weedon, Thomas in London, England, c.1840-1870.

This group of steel-bladed tools, including a saw, hammer, chisel, scalpels and retractors, was designed for dissecting human bodies after death. By helping doctors understand the effects of disease and trauma, this can lead to improved treatment for future patients. Observing a post mortem dissection is also a valuable learning experience for medical students. The kit was probably used by one of Sydney’s early surgeons, Dr Charles Nathan, between his arrival in the colony in 1841 and his death ...


Object No.


Object Statement

Post-mortem instruments and case, owned and used by Dr Charles Nathan (1816-1872), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, metal / ivory / wood, made by Thomas Weedon, London, 1830-1860

Physical Description

Mahogany case lined with dark red velvet and containing twenty-one post-mortem instruments. The tools are steel with ivory handles and include a pair of scissors, saw blade, scalpels, knife blade, knife handle, blow pipe, chisel blade, hammer head, needles, tweezers and two sets of hooks on chains.



46 mm


555 mm


120 mm


1.1 kg



Weedon, Thomas London, England c.1840-1870



This case of post-mortem instruments is believed to have belonged to Charles Nathan, a notable surgeon in Sydney in the mid-1800s. The brass plate on the lid of the case is engraved 'C.Nathan' and information received by the museum when the case was donated in 1938 states that it was 'once the property of Charles Nathan, one of the first surgeons to the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary ...'

Born and educated in London, Nathan migrated to Sydney in 1841. In 1845 he was one of the original four doctors appointed to the new Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary (later to become Sydney Hospital). In 1947 he and a Dr Belisario were the first doctors ever to administer an anaesthetic in Australia. Subsequent highlights in Dr Nathan's career include his use of ether anaesthetic when manipulating congenital dislocations of the hip; his later preference for chloroform, which he administered to his own wife in childbirth; his attendance on the Duke of Edinburgh when he was wounded in 1868; and his part in the founding of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association and a number of other important institutions in New South Wales. Nathan died from heart disease in 1872 at the age of 56.


Credit Line

Gift of Mr Lyster Ormsby, 1938

Acquisition Date

17 May 1938

Cite this Object


Post-mortem instruments, 1830 - 1860 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 March 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Post-mortem instruments, 1830 - 1860 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 March 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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