Object Name: Urinometer
Manufacturer: Unknown
Date Made: 1800-1899
MeSH Code: Medical Subject Headings Urinalysis
Diabetes Mellitus


For several thousand years urine was a, if not the, primary body fluid used in medical diagnoses.  Physicians relied on their senses to assess patients’ urine and identify their ailments.  Most commonly they studied its colour, smell, and amount of sedimentation.  Taste could also be employed, but was used less frequently.

Uroscopy began to fall out of favour in the 16th century and continued to wane as the scientific revolution gained momentum. It was replaced by urinalysis, which relied on chemical and physical analysis rather than the senses.

The urinometer (pictured) was used to determine urine specific gravity or density.   The first incarnation of this instrument, a hydrometrum, was developed in the 17th century by Leonard Thurneysser and Jean Baptiste van Helmont.  One end is weighted, while the other presents the graduations of gravity measurement.  Depending on the gravity of the urine sample, the urinometer will float higher or sink lower.  Gravity is determined by the reading on the meter at the meniscus of the sample.

Related: Inconceivable 

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