The home enema set, the bullet extractor, the iron lung... an online exibition gives a fascinating insight into the history of medicine

An instinct for self preservation is a defining characteristic of all creatures. Sir Henry Wellcome (1853 – 1936) set out to explore its human expression by amassing an astonishing range of objects used since antiquity to fend off death. Using the profits from the drug company he founded, he collected around one million items, first exhibited in in 1913.

Around 100,000 of them are on loan to the Science Museum which this month launched a new website, Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine, showcasing 2,500 of the most interesting of them. From anaesthetic machines to anti-masturbation devices, they offer a glimpse into our obsessive quest for health and wellbeing. Robert Bud, principal curator of medicine at the Science Museum says: "Henry Wellcome saw in the development of medicine the development of all human civilisation. He had a real faith in medicine as a pillar of culture."