Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Around 1795–1796 Perkins invented and patented Perkins Patent Tractors. They were two 3-inch metal rods with a point at the end. Although they were made of steel and brass, Perkins claimed that they were made of unusual metal alloys. Perkins used his rods to cure inflammation, rheumatism and pain in the head and the face. He applied the points on the aching body part and passed them over the part for about 20 minutes. Perkins claimed they could "draw off the noxious electrical fluid that lay at the root of suffering".
Although the Connecticut Medical Society condemned the tractors as "delusive quackery", Perkins managed to convince three US medical faculties that his method worked. In Copenhagen, Denmark, 12 surgeons of the Royal Frederick Hospital also begun to support the method as well. Even George Washington bought a set. Other physician's criticism was met with charges of elitism and professional arrogance. Perkins boasted of 5000 cured cases.
Perkins' son Benjamin Douglas introduced the tractors to London and Lord Rivers founded a Perkinsian Institution for the benefit of the poor. In 1798 Benjamin Perkins published The Influence of Metallic Tractors on the Human Body.
Shortly before his death Perkins also invented antiseptic medicine and used it for dysentery and sore throat. In 1799 he went to New York to try his methods during a yellow fever epidemic but died of it himself four weeks later.
After Perkins' death, British physicians began to present doubts about his tractors. In 1799 physician John Haygarth made a test in which he treated five rheumatic patients with wooden tractors that were made to resemble the metallic ones. Four of them reported that the pain was relieved. The next day the patients were treated with metallic tractors with same results.
Also attempts to use the tractors to cure animals proved futile. However, by that time Perkins had numerous influential supporters and the sale of the tractors continued.
Benjamin Perkins died 1810. Only after that did the popularity of the tractors begin to wane.
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