Thomas Splint

MOL LI 11/2009.2


This leg splint is named after its inventor, Hugh Owen Thomas (1834-1891), a surgeon who practised in deprived areas of Victorian Liverpool. The Thomas Splint was designed and first used in 1865, to immobilise a fractured joint, keeping it stable to encourage healing. Most notably, it was used by medics on the battlefield during the First World War to keep fractured limbs stable enough to transport casualties. A simple and affordable device, the Thomas Splint saved countless lives and had a huge impact on even the most significant casualties which would normally result in disablement. Hugh came from a family of bonesetters who had historically practised in North Wales. His father Evan Thomas set up a practice at Great Crosshall Street in Liverpool. After qualifying as a doctor in 1857 Hugh started at this practice, often treating dock workers and seafarers. He then set up his own practice on 24 Hardy Street in 1859, and eventually moved to 11 Nelson Street in 1866 when demand for his services grew more than ever before. The design of the Thomas Splint was intentionally simple, as he believed it should be affordable and accessible to the poorer communities, with whom he had spent so long working. He believed that the splint would make it easier for any surgeon to treat fractures at home ‘with no more mechanical assistance than can be rendered by the village blacksmith and saddler’.1This meant that working class people in the countryside didn’t have to travel to the city to a hospital and that they could access the Thomas Splint quickly and easily, for only a small cost. Lent by the Thackray Museum of Medicine 1 Thomas, Hugh Owen. Diseases of the Hip, Knee, and Ankle Joints: With Their Deformities, Treated by a New and Efficient Method: p.28. United Kingdom, H.K. Lewis, 1878