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The 'Gosset' Icterometer

Dr Isaac Henry Gosset (1907-1965) was the first consultant paediatrician for Northampton, with responsibilities which included both general and neonatal care. In 1954 for neonatal use he designed the Gosset Icterometer.  Made of perspex the icterometer allowed a rough estimation of serum bilirubin without requiring a blood test. Two successful clinical trials were published in the Lancet and were among the earliest such papers in neonatal care. The Gosset icterometer is no longer used in UK neonatal practice but, 60 years after its invention, the device it is still in use in various countries around the world.

His seminal Lancet paper is freely available to read below with permission from Elsevier.

pdf-favicon Gosset I.H,  'A Perspex Icterometer for neonates' . The Lancet 1960, 275 (7115): 87-88.Special Credit "Reused with permission from Elsevier

pdf-favicon The ‘Gosset’ Icterometer : a brief history
Williams A.N., O’Dell F.J., Dunn P.M . WEMJ,  Vol 115 No 4  p1-4. December 2016

pdf-favicon Dr Isaac Henry Gosset (1907–1965) inventor of the ‘Gosset’ icterometer and founder of Northamptonshire neonatal paediatrics Williams AN, O'Dell F
Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2016;101:F264-F265.
With gracious permission from (© 2017 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. All rights reserved.)

These photographs and icterometers come from Dr Gosset's family


International interest

After his death, Dr Gosset’s family collected and stored his correspondence. Amongst these was a large collection of requests from other doctors around the world for either a copy of his Lancet paper or information on how to get an icterometer of their own.  These request cards and letters have been sorted and entered into a database, to show the global spread of this device.

Database accessible here.

To make this more easily visible the data has also been turned into a map.

This is not a full list of everyone who purchased an icterometer. Correspondence from Thomas A. Ingram & Co, the manufacturer, indicates sales of over 1000 by January 1961. It particularly highlights high sales levels in places like Australia and Japan, with enquires even coming from beyond the Iron Curtain, which is not represented in this collection of correspondence. Perhaps their letters went straight to the manufacturer.

Several individuals also requested an icterometer in order to conduct their own research.

Here you can see the digitised images of Dr C.R.J. Ruthven’s letter, as he describes how he carried out a trial of the use of the icterometer, and essentially replicated Dr Gosset’s original results.

The icterometer also gained international interest for research, with both Dr Barton, and Dr Crosse requesting icterometers to carry out research on Hyperbilirubinemia in premature infants.

The icterometer is still used today in several countries.  The international spread of the device and the research generated was an important part of the early development of neonatal care.


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