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RCP Unseen: audience selection
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Palmer insulin injector with a Rand Rocket syringe, instruction leaflet and spare needles
Injector manufactured by Palmer, c.1950s/1960s, and syringe manufactured by Rand Rocket, c.1980s.
Shaped like a small gun, this insulin injector was owned and used by Mrs Lampard (1936–2011) between the late 1950s and early 1980s. This apparatus, which includes spare needles and a cleaning instruction leaflet, was donated to the RCP by her daughter in 2019. We do not know the exact dates when Mrs Lampard used this injector, but it is likely that it was replaced by more modern insulin delivery systems such as a pen (invented 1985) or a pump (invented 1992).
Mrs Lampard was first diagnosed with diabetes in 1946, aged 10 years. According to her daughter she also suffered from Graves disease: ‘I think it may have been as a result of the shock as she experienced much bombing living in Southampton during the second World War’. As a result of these diagnoses, Mrs Lampard was advised against a career in journalism and having children – presumably to avoid stressful situations, and because of the risks that pregnancy can pose to people with diabetes – and instead became ‘very active in the community, had a full-time job and managed a house and very productive garden, supporting our Dad and three (adopted) children.’
The Palmer injector was invented in 1955 by a Scottish farmer, Charles Palmer, who had diabetes. Until then, people with diabetes had to endure several daily injections of insulin using glass hypodermic syringes, which were fiddly to use and difficult to hold still with one hand. Palmer couldn’t get used to using a syringe, so he designed a device that enabled the self-administration of insulin in a relatively pain-free way – transforming the experience of taking insulin for thousands of people with diabetes.
Palmer’s injector, manufactured in Scotland by Palmer Injectors Limited, has a quick trigger designed to make injections less painful. By attaching an insulin-filled syringe onto the gun-shaped steel handle, the injector makes it easy to position and hold steady. An injection can be completed using just one hand.
This injector has been mounted with a Rand Rocket syringe of a later date. The Rand Rocket company was formed in the early 1970s and supplied disposable syringes as well as other surgical supplies.