Telemedicine from the 1920s?

I saw an interesting article today on Smithsonian magazine’s Paleofuture blog, suggesting that an early radio and publishing professional may have predicted telemedicine as early as 1925.

According to the article, that person, Hugo Gernsback, predicted that within 50 years, by 1975, there would be a contraption he called the “teledactyl.” With this device, physicians would be able to see patients on a television screen (TV did exist in 1925, though it hadn’t reached the masses) and also “touch” patients with radio-controlled arms.

Gernsback wrote:

The busy doctor, fifty years hence, will not be able to visit his patients as he does now. It takes too much time, and he can only, at best, see a limited number today. Whereas the services of a really big doctor are so important that he should never have to leave his office; on the other hand, his patients cannot always come to him. This is where the teledactyl and diagnosis by radio comes in.

Here’s how Gernsback visualized it, on the cover of the February 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine, which he published.

Incidentally, according to the Smithsonian article, Gernsback just a year later launched a new magazine called Amazing Stories, supposedly the first publication fully dedicated to science fiction. Clearly, though, there was more than a little truth in the 1925 forecast.