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H9821 Electric-Shock machine, 'Improved Magneto Electric Machine', wood / brass / velvet / bakelite, made by William Skidmore, Sheffield, England, possibly 1900-1920. Click to enlarge.

Electric-shock machine

This Electric-Shock Machine is an example of medical equipment used by physicians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth- century. It was designed to deliver electric currents to the body of a patient to interact with their nervous system. During the time of production, this machine was marketed as being able to treat a myriad of serious and superficial diseases.

In the late eighteenth-century, the scientific research of Luigi Galvani, which included with the effects of electricity on …


Object No.


Object Statement

Electric-Shock machine, 'Improved Magneto Electric Machine', wood / brass / velvet / bakelite, made by William Skidmore, Sheffield, England, possibly 1900-1920

Physical Description

The brass apparatus is screwed into the base of a wooden box with hinged cover. The apparatus consists of a large magnet secured to the back of the box. The magnet is attached to a brass knob that releases the magnet when pulled out. A cog and wheel are connected to a metal spool covered in blue velvet. The cog is rotated using a crank that protrudes from the front of the box. At either end of the box metal sockets have been fixed for cords and are designed to operate with a screw action. There is a keyhole at the front of the box. A green and black label is adhered to the inside of the cover giving direction for use with accompanying sketches and supplying trade information.

During application, electric-current passes through the location of the disorder or disease in an attempt to treat "nervous diseases". The handles are connected to the cords that originate from either side of the box and are placed on the patient's body. The crank is turned the desired amount to ensure electricity is produced from the handles into the patient.


Engraved on brass scaffold: `Skidmore/Sheffield'.
On label: `Newly Invented/Manufactured by William Skidmore, Surgical Instrument Maker Cemetery Road, Sheffield/Improved Magneto-Electric Machine/For Nervous Diseases/(two images of application - operation of machine)/Directions - Connect two metallic cords or wires with the sockets in the ends of the Box, and apply handles connected with the other ends of the metallic cods or wires to any part of the person through which is desirable to pass the current of Electricity. Then turn the crank, regulating the strength only to that degree most agreeable to the patient. It is less unpleasant to the patient if wet sponges are placed in the ends of the handles and these applied to the skin, as they prevent the prickling sensation. The sponges should never be put inside the Box while wet as they rust the machinery. In applying it for the Toothache, Tic - Doloreaux or Neuralgia, the operator takes one Handle and places fingers or sponge over the part affected, while the patient hold the other Handle. In applying it to the foot place on of the Handles in the Water with the foot, and hold the other in the hand, or apply it to any other part of the person. The Bearings and Spring must be oiled occasionally.'.



190 mm


300 mm


Possibly made

  • 1900-1920


William Skidmore of Skidmore and Co. LTD produced surgical instruments throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The production of the electric-shock machine marks a significant period in medical history, a stepping stone from early bioelelectromagnetics to the introduction to (ECT) in the mid-twentieth century.

This object is indicative of the products available to England during this period and is representative of other electric-shock machines available at the time. It combines multiple materials including Bakelite, which is recognized as the first synthetic plastic, brass, velvet and wood. This combination of materials ensures this object resembles its manufacturing era.

William Skidmore and Co. LTD advertised as 'Manufacturers of all kinds of Surgical Instruments'. Identified as 'Nervous Diseases' the 'Improved Magneto Electric Machine' claims to cure sciatica, toothaches and paralysis. Images of the machine and other Skidmore products are found on several advertisements for the electric-shock machine.


Credit Line

Purchased 1982

Acquisition Date

15 November 1982

Cite this Object


Electric-shock machine 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 June 2023, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Electric-shock machine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=5 June 2023 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}