It is my pleasure to take tea once more today with Dr Dillingham of Edinburgh and hear his medical tales. I must admit that, when I first encountered the item that has caught my eye today, I was rather misled by its name; happily though, the sick syphon is not quite the gruesome instrument I took it to be!
Upon my initial reading of the name of this rather fine implement, I found myself wondering how on earth it worked. How could such a thing be used to syphon vomit form a patient? My mind fairly boggled at the many, varied and ever more unpleasant methods by which it might be employed and yet, as the good doctor quickly assured me, it has nothing to do with vomit.
In fact, the sick syphon is rather more like a very elaborate, very well turned out straw. Its shape allowed it to be placed in a vessel such as a bowl or mug and even the weakest patient could then carefully suck up whatever (mostly liquid) foodstuff was on offer.
This particular syphon is dated 1790 and was made by silversmiths Edward Robinson and Thomas Phipps. In its fine case it makes for a most unusual medical curiosity; if only it could talk!