Trephination Set

Trephination Set

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This trephination set belonged to Charles McKnight (1750-1791), a physician who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and then practiced in New York City. Trephining, a surgical procedure entailing boring a hole through the skull, was widely advocated for the treatment of head wounds during this time. This set of tools, or parts of the set, was made by W. Pepys (William Hasledine Pepys (1748–1805), a cutler and surgical instrument maker in London. The set contains: two (2) crown trephines with handle; one (1) tweezer forceps; one (1) arrow head perforator; one (1) elevator; two (2) lenticular knives; one (1) tripod; one (1) scalpel; one (1) forceps; and one (1) Sharp's forceps.
Charles McKnight graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1771, and then studied medicine under Dr. William Shippen, of Philadelphia. He joined the Continental Army before completing his studies. In 1777 he was appointed Surgeon General (Senior Surgeon) of the so-called "flying hospital" of the Middle Department. He moved with Washington's army and was with them during the harsh winter of 1779-80 at Jockey Hollow, New Jersey. After the war, McKnight became one of the original members of the Society of the Cincinnati. He practiced medicine in New York City and served as professor of Anatomy at Columbia College until his death in 1791, at age 41.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Trepanning Set
trephination Set
surgical set
Other Terms
Trepanning Set; Surgical Set; Trepanning
date made
mid 1700s
Physical Description
wood, oak (overall material)
fabric, cotton (overall material)
metal, steel (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 5.5 cm x 24.4 cm x 20.8 cm; 2 3/16 in x 9 5/8 in x 8 3/16 in
part: drill handle: 3 in x 3 3/4 in x 1 1/4 in; 7.62 cm x 9.525 cm x 3.175 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Rosalie F. Bailey
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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