Inside Mass. General Hospital's museum
This surgical operating chair was invented by Dr. Henry J. Bigelow (18181890), a distinguished surgeon at MGH and a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. The Bigelow Chair features a reclining back, movable leg extension and leather upholstery, with each section mobile with the ivory and wooden handles to enable a surgeon to properly position the patient. In the early 1800s, operating chairs and tables were made of wood and featured several restraints to hold patients securely in place while a surgeon worked. In the later part of the century, restraints were no longer needed following the introduction of ether anesthesia in 1846, and the chairs reverted to the earlier, simpler style in the aseptic era instead of plush leather or padding they were made of metal so they could easily be sterilized.