May is Museum Month continues with a very interesting object from the Westfield collection. Peter Lloyd, Collections Officer, at Westfield shares this week the Branston Violet Generator.

violet ray is an antique medical appliance used during the early 20th century to deliver electrotherapy. They generated a high voltage, high frequency, low current to the human body for therapeutic purposes. Their basic construction was invented by Nikola Tesla, who introduced his first prototypes at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Although the physics behind the electric effect is fascinating they were a flop in practice. Further study in this area did eventually produce Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a therapy that uses low voltage electrical current to provide pain relief, it works.

Our machine, the Branston Ultra Violet Generator, made the usual claims that never really panned out. These included: … that the device would produce pleasing, invigorating, and corrective effects; that it would be effective as a general treatment by stimulating the circulation; that it would be effective for beauty, health, and strength; that it would be efficacious in the treatment of rheumatic pain in the shoulder, nervous disorders, rheumatism, lumbago, and neuritis…

The Chas. A. Branston Co. manufactured x-ray and electro-medical devices in the early 20th century. He began his operations at 355 Yonge St., Toronto, Ontario, in about 1919. He disappears from the business record by 1939. The Ultra Violet Generator and like devices were banned from manufacture in the U.S.A. in 1950.

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