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Question
Posted by: Student | 2003/03/19

Non-Shrink question

Hi Doc
Hope you don't mind the non-pshyc question.
Doctors from yesteryear used a weird looking device strapped to their foreheads when examining patients (as seen in cartoons). I would imagine that this must have been some sort of light.
What intrigues me though, is why it had that particular shape. A disc with a hole in it?
Almost like a CD. Would they have looked through this hole or did it simply operate like a miner's lamp?
Sorry again for the stupid question and thanx for your time.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Dear student,
An interesting question. I know exactly what you mean ! Cartoonists need to use some form of short-hand, so their problem is : how to I easily signal that this character is a doctor ? A tradition arose years back of showing this odd piece of equipment, though it's much less often used now ( maybe they found it more difficult to draw a stethoscope ? )
The gadget ( I remember struggling to learn to use it properly ) was used, for instance, when examining someone's throat. Unlike a CD, the mirror was somewhat curved and bowlshaped. The idea was that you could, with it, have a light shining from behind the patient, focussed into the throat ( or whatever part you were examining ) while you peered through the hole at its center, benefitting from the light being in the right place, bright enough --- and allowing you to have both hands free to use in the examination or to handle instruments, etc, rather than having one hand needing to just hold a torch.
Its interesting to look out for other examples of this cartoon shorthand. JOurnalists, especially Editors, were, and surprisingly often still are, shown wearing an eye-shade on their forehead ; though in all my years of working with editors and being an editor, have never come acros one in real life.

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