Now seen as one of the most popular forms of exercise, the health-giving properties of swimming have not always been recognised. This gallery enters the murky depths of 16th-century rivers, breathes the bracing air of the Regency seaside and dives into a modernist swimming pool to chart the course from water as site of danger to a space of health.
Backstroke to the future
About the author
Ross MacFarlane is a Research Development Specialist at Wellcome Collection. He has researched, written, and lectured on the Collection and other topics at the intersection of death, folklore, and medicine.
Try these next
Browse 1907 book ‘Swimming pools: their construction; mechanical installation; water supply; heating the water; various types of installations adapted to different conditions; with thirty illustrations and charts.’
Read more about the work of the Peckham Pioneer Health Centre Experiment and see a picture of the pool as viewed from the cafe.
Visit the Reading Room areas on body and breath to read more about swimming and other exercises and their effect on health.