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A medical illustration of two different chamberlen forceps, labeled 1 and 2, that appear as large, slightly curved tongs.
Chamberlen forceps. (Photo: Wellcome Images)

Forceps are invented and held as a secret birthing tool for the inventor's profit.

Date: 1600

Chamberlen forceps. (Photo: Wellcome Images)

Peter Chamberlen and his son begin using metal forceps to assist births in England under a veil of secrecy, refusing to show the tool to birthing people or their families. The Chamberlens use their secret tool to build a lucrative practice in a society previously suspicious of "man-midwives." Campbell (2018) writes: "Among physicians and surgeons in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sitting on trade secrets to ensure maximum profit was a relatively common practice."

Forceps will not enter common usage for another century, and are widely critiqued today for their contribution to birth injuries and maternal mortality.