Plaster of Paris

Immobilisation of injured limbs has been performed for thousands of years and starch-based casts were the standard treatment, with only minor changes, until the beginning of the 19th century. Many centuries before it was introduced as a cast material, Plaster of Paris (PoP)* was well known as a building material. Egyptians

Pictures and stories

One of the facets of the IPHA that sets it apart from many of the other sub-groups of physiotherapists is its rich heritage of pictures and stories. Whereas for some groups a scientific paper or a treatment pathway best expresses the work of the people in the group, pictures and

Kay Nias

I had the great pleasure of spending an hour in conversation with Dr Kay Nias this morning. Kay is a Medicine Galleries Research Fellow at the Science Museum specializing in the history of physiotherapy, and has recently posted a beautifully illustrated and written piece on the history of the wheelchair

The wonders of the Wellcome Archive

There are many wondrous things to be found at the Wellcome Library in London (link). Some years ago I spend a very happy month at the Wellcome researching the archives of the CSP for my doctorate, and a few days ago I stumbled across a file of photos I’d taken


Call for Papers

MECHANICAL MEDICINE Exploring the History of Healing by Exercise, Manipulation and Massage. 23 May 2019, Science Museum, London. A symposium at the Science Museum, London, organised by Dr Kay Nias (Medicine Galleries Research Fellow). ‘Physical medicine’ or ‘physical therapy’ has ancient origins. For thousands of years, people with illnesses and

The first self-propelled wheelchair built by German paraplegic, Stephan Farffler

History of the Wheelchair

The 1st of March is International Wheelchair Day so we are getting ready for the celebrations by having a look back at the history of the wheelchair. While both chairs and wheels have been around of thousands of years, the Ancient Greeks and the Chinese were the first to combine

Office aerobics c.1917

It’s not unusual for people to think that today’s vices are worse than anything we’ve seen before in history, but this is plainly nonsense. Paleolithic cave-dwellers were just as worried about food security as we are today and Victorians worried about the accelerating pace of life as much, perhaps even

Gym machines and gynaecological massage

Many of you will know of the pioneering work of Anders Ottosson, whose histories of mobilization, kinesiology and the gendered basis of physiotherapy history were some of the first critical scholarship to be published in the field.   Well, Anders along with Michaela Malmberg have published two chapters in a

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François Humbert – a pioneer of 19th century orthopaedics

Last week I had a series of email conversations with Axelle Mokry (, a Swiss physiotherapist who has for some time now been part of an association looking to research the work of French doctor François Humbert, who created the first orthopedic centre of France in 1817.   Unlike many academics

A century of blind physiotherapists

2019 marks the centenary of the first ever physiotherapy special interest group. The Association of Blind Certified Masseurs (changed in 1953 to The Association of Blind Chartered Physiotherapists), was formed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, then the Incorporated Society of Trained Masseuses (ISTM), in 1919 in response to three

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