The first internally lit device used to inspect the interior of the human body was constructed by Philipp Bozzini of Mainz, Germany in 1806. Bozzini called his device a "Lichtleiter," or light conductor. It was constructed of a tube, with various attachments, to be inserted into a body cavity. A candle and angled mirrors inside the device enabled the physician to see inside the cavity. It was originally thought to be most useful for examining the larynx, but the design later came to be adapted for urological and gynecological applications. The Lichtleiter was the forerunner of thousands of urologic endoscopes.
Bozzini built this instrument to be shown at the Josephinum, the leading medical academy of its time, in Vienna, Austria. The original endoscope was held there for a century and a half. Eventually, it was donated to the American College of Surgeons by a pharmaceutical company. Just how the company came to acquire it has not been determined, but it is considered likely that it may have come by way of a soldier who “liberated” it from the Josephinum during the British occupation of Vienna in 1945.
In 2000, it was decided that the Lichtleiter should by rights be returned to the Josephinum Museum. Administrators debated and consulted about how to carry this out. In the end, it was carried to Vienna for the American Urological Association's Centennial Meeting in 2002. In exchange for a working copy (fashioned by Mercedes-Benz engineers from Philipp Bozzini’s original drawings), the original was turned over to the Museum. The reproduction may be viewed in the display case on the 28th floor of College headquarters.
Contact the Archives for an English translation of Bozzini's original treatise on urology. See also: Hanlon, C. Rollins, “Bozzini endoscope returns home", Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, July 2002, 39-40.
ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.