Women’s Day Series: The woman behind the syringe patent

Everyone is well aware about the medical syringe consisting of a cylinder with a nozzle and a piston for injecting or withdrawing fluids. But most of us don’t know the history behind it which has helped mankind over the past 120 years. Here is an interesting post that gives you an insight to the history of the medical syringe.

On Feb 12, 1896, Letitia Mumford Geer, an American lady filed for a patent application that discloses a medical syringe. Letitia Mumford Geer was granted a patent for the same in 1899. Letitia is credited with the invention of medical syringe that could be used with one hand and containing glass parts. Through this invention, Letitia has changed the world and its concept of medical treatment. Even modern syringes are inspired from Letitia’s idea.

The patent with publication number ‘US622848A’ discloses a medical syringe. The medical syringe includes a cylinder, a piston rod, a handle and a nozzle. The cylinder is adapted to be filled with the medicine and the piston is adapted to be operated inside and outside the cylinder. The piston rod is integrated with the U-shaped handle. The piston rod is bent upon itself to form a smooth and rigid arm terminating in a handle. The handle is located within reach of the fingers of the hand in extreme positions, thus permitting one hand to hold and operate the syringe. A hook extension is provided at the free end to prevent the hand slipping at the rigid arm.

The working of the syringe, as stated in the patent application is as follows -The operator inserts the nozzle in the rectum and holds the cylinder by placing the fingers of the same hand in the rigid arm of the handle. The handle is in a position away from the cylinder before injecting the medicine. The extension prevents the fingers from slipping off the rigid arm. The handle can be drawn into a position near to the cylinder while injecting the medicine by the use of  one hand, thereby enabling the operator to use the syringe-upon himself without the aid of an assistant.

The advantages of the medical syringe are several. The syringe is very simple and cheap. It can be operated with one hand. The syringe can be used for rectal injections and similar purposes and it can be operated by either the physician or the patient.


Figure 1 is a side view of the handle. Fig 2 is a side view of a portion of the cylinder of a syringe with the handle connected therewith. Fig. 3 is a sectional view of a syringe, showing the handle in a different position.

Authored by Blessen Koshy.

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