Stories|Part of Inside Our Collections

Backstroke to the future

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.   

Words by Ross MacFarlane

  • In pictures

About the author

Black and white photograph of Ross MacFarlane, a white man with glasses, wearing a shirt and a dark jumper.

Ross MacFarlane


Ross MacFarlane is a research development specialist at Wellcome Collection. He has researched, written and lectured on the collections and other topics at the intersection of death, folklore and medicine.