The Rotating Solariums of Jean Saidman

Jul 22, 2019 0 comments

Solariums of Jean Saidman

The importance of sunlight to human health is well understood, and that understanding developed in the late 19th century when it was discovered that sunbathing aided the production of vitamin D which helped prevent rickets. Soon, heliotherapy—treating patients by exposing them to sunlight—became a well-established remedy for treating various conditions of the skin, cancer, tuberculosis of the bones, among other things. Exposure to sunlight is also known to have a positive effect on a person's mental health.

Dr. Jean Saidman, who ran the Institute of Actinology in Paris, recognized these benefits. Saidman was born in Romania in 1897, but emigrated to France as a teenager. He studied medicine and became an early expert in the field of actinology, a branch of science that studies the chemical effects of high-energy light. In 1929, he designed and patented a “rotating solarium” to better aid ultraviolet light treatment.

The first rotating solarium went up in 1930 on the French community of Aix-les-Bains located in the Savoy Alps. Designed by architect Andre Farde, the building consisted of a base where the waiting and examination rooms are located, and a short tower with a steeply pitched conical roof inside of which was an elevator and a spiral staircase. At the top of the tower was a horizontal metal wing that could rotate following the sun to keep the cabins illuminated throughout the day. There was a monitoring and control room at the center of the wing. This was flanked on either side by glass-fronted treatment cabins for the patients. The movable platform was 25 meters long and 6 meters wide and weighed 80 tons.

Dr. Jean Saidman

Dr. Jean Saidman

Each room was equipped with a tilting bed that could be adjusted to keep the patient perpendicular to the sun’s rays. A system of nickel oxide or cobalt glass screens, to block certain wavelengths of light, and lenses to concentrate the sunrays were moved into various positions above the patients to direct the sunrays into specific parts of the body. Dr. Saidman used his solarium to treat patients with various forms of rheumatism, dermatitis, tuberculosis, rickets and cancer.

In 1934, Saidman built two more solariums—one in Vallauris, in Alpes-Maritimes, France, and another one in Jamnagar in the Indian state of Gujarat. The latter one was part of the Ranjit Institute of Poly-Radio Therapy, named after its founder Maharaja Jam Ranjitsinhji. This solarium is the only one still standing, although disused. The other two got destroyed during World War 2.

Solariums of Jean Saidman

Solariums of Jean Saidman

Tilting bed inside the revolving solarium. Photo credit:

Solariums of Jean Saidman

View of the cabins for sunbathing. Photo credit:

Solariums of Jean Saidman

The solarium of Jamnagar, India. Photo credit:


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