Edward Jenner: The History of Smallpox and Vaccination

With the rapid pace of vaccine development in recent decades, the historic origins of immunization are often forgotten.  By Dr Stefan Riedel, M.D. PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology Johns Hopkins University Introduction Figure 1: Edward Jenner (1749–1823). Photo courtesy of the National Library of Medicine In science credit goes to the man who convinces the[…]

The Origin of Vaccinations

In May 1796, Edward Jenner was asked to inoculate an eight-year-old pauper child named James Phipps. By Dr. Arthur W. Boylston Pathologist In 1796, seventy-five years after Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Charles Maitland introduced inoculation into England (Huth 2005; Boylston 2012), Edward Jenner performed an experiment that would eventually lead to the eradication of smallpox[…]

The Historical Development of the Interface between Law, Medicine, and Psychiatry

From the Guild-Book of the Barber-Surgeons of the city of York / British Library, Public Domain Medicine and law were related from early times. This relation resulted as a necessity of protecting communities from the irresponsible acts of impostors. By Magdaleen Swanepoel, LLB, LLD Professor of Law University of South Africa (UNISA) History, despite its wrenching[…]

Health and Medicine in Ancient Greece: From Theology to Science

Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” / Public Domain By the 5th century BCE, there were attempts to identify the material causes for illnesses rather than spiritual ones. By Mark Cartwright / 04.11.2018 Historian Introduction In ancient Greek medicine illness was initally regarded as a divine punishment and healing as, quite literally, a gift from the gods. However, by[…]

The History of Medicine in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome

Dated to the New Kingdom (c. 1570 – c. 1069 BCE), and specifically to c. 1200 BCE, the text is written in demotic script and is the oldest treatise on anorectal disease (affecting the anus and rectum) in history. / Photo by Ibolya Horvath, British Museum, Creative Commons The history of medicine is a long and distinguished one, as[…]

Ancient Alexandria and the Dawn of Medical Science

Alexandria – View of ruins of the Serapeum from Pompey’s Pillar / Photo by Daniel Mayer, Wikimedia Commons In a number of ways, ancient Egyptian knowledge was superior to the later Greek knowledge that would flourish in the first millennium BCE By Dr. Ismail Serageldin / 12.30.2013 Founding Director and Emeritus Librarian Bibliotheca Alexandrina The[…]

Some Aspects of Health Care in Medieval India

The Susruta-Samhita or Sahottara-Tantra (A Treatise on Ayurvedic Medicine) / Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons Specialization in certain diseases or practices was prevalent and the physicians  enjoyed a high status and respect in the society. By Dr. B. Rama Rao Abstract It appears that from medieval period onwards the subjects having practical[…]

Early Modern Books and Moving Images

EPB/35960/A: François Mauriceau, The accomplisht midwife, treating of the diseases of women with child, and in child-bed (London: J. Darby for B. Billingsley, 1673), first folding plate. Wellcome Images L0014457. By Rebecca Whiteley / 08.11.2016 PhD Student in History of Art University College London Looking through copies of ‘The diseases of women with child and[…]

Healing Ways: The Voices of Native Americans

Blessing from the Medicine Man, Howard Terpning®, 2011 / The Greenwich Workshop, Inc. Native American concepts of health and wellness have sustained diverse peoples since ancient times. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 08.04.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Medicine Ways: Traditional Healers and Healing Introduction Many traditional healers say that most of the healing is done by[…]

Archaeologists Discover Parasite Described by Hippocrates to Infect Ancient Greeks

Earliest archaeological evidence of intestinal parasitic worms infecting the ancient inhabitants of Greece confirms descriptions found in writings associated with Hippocrates, the early physician and ‘father of Western medicine’. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 07.28.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Ancient faeces from prehistoric burials on the Greek island of Kea have provided the first archaeological[…]

Could Ancient Textbooks Be the Source of the Next Medical Breakthrough?

Voynich Manuscript. / Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, Wikimedia Commons Can we hope to find new remedies by studying ancient medical texts? By Dr. Laurence Totelin / 10.07.2015 Lecturer in Ancient History Cardiff University The discovery that won the latest Nobel Prize for Medicine wouldn’t have been much of a revelation to doctors in ancient China. Pharmaceutical chemist[…]

A History of Mental Illness

An illustrated scene at Bedlam from Hogarth’s series of paintings ‘A Rake’s Progress’ / Wikimedia Commons A history of mental illness from the Stone Age to the 20th century. By Dr. Ingrid Farreras Professor of Psychology Chair, Department of Psychology Hood College References to mental illness can be found throughout history. The evolution of mental illness,[…]

Literally “Like a Hole in the Head”: Trephination in the Ancient World

A Neolithic (3500 BCE) skull showing evidence of a trephination operation – the removal of a part of the cranium to relieve pressure, used as a medical treatment for a variety of ailments from migraines to mental illness. The treatment was used in many ancient cultures. (Natural History Museum, Lausanne). / Photo by Jmh649, Wikimedia Commons A surgical intervention where[…]

History of the Flu

The Plague at Ashdod, by Nicolas Poussin / Louvre Museum, Wikimedia Commons The word influenza is derived from the medieval Italian word for “influence” (influentia) and referred to the perceived causes of the disease. By Jim Davis / 03.15.2017 PhD Candidate in History The Ohio State University You may not like getting your flu shot, but you[…]

From Iron Lung to Independence

By Dr. Gabrielle Chapman / 06.23.2015 Associate Dean, Graduate School Syracuse University In September 1955 at the age of six, Mark O’Brien was roused from his sleep by a sharp pain in the pit of his stomach. His parents immediately phoned a doctor and rushed him to Boston Children’s Hospital. His memory of that night[…]

Synthetic Organs, Nanobots, and DNA ‘Scissors’: The Future of Medicine

Nanobots that patrol our bodies, killer immune cells hunting and destroying cancer cells, biological scissors that cut out defective genes: these are just some of technologies that Cambridge researchers are developing which are set to revolutionise medicine in the future. 10.12.2017 In a new film to coincide with the recent launch of the Cambridge Academy of[…]

Five Bloodcurdling Medical Procedures that are No Longer Performed … Thankfully!

Kunstmuseum St Gallen/Wikimedia Commons If the thought of undergoing surgery fills you with dread, spare a thought for your forebears. By Dr. Adam Taylor / 05.18.2017 Director of the Critical Anatomy Learning Centre Senior Lecturer in Anatomy Lancaster University Surgeries and treatments come and go. A new BMJ guideline, for example, makes “strong recommendations” against the use[…]

In a World with No Antibiotics, How Did Doctors Treat Infections?

Bloodletting was treatment for infection in the past. Wellcome Library, London, CC BY While some ancient therapies proved effective enough that they are still used in some form today, on the whole they just aren’t as good as modern antimicrobials at treating infections. By Dr. Cristie Columbus / 01.29.2016 Associate Dean Campus – Dallas Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine Texas A&M University The development of antibiotics and[…]

Andreas Vesalius: The Man Who Revolutionized Our Knowledge of the Human Body

Drawn directly from the flesh. Public Domain Review/Flickr, CC BY-SA By Dr. Richard Gunderman / 12.31.2014 Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis Andreas Vesalius authored one of the most elegant and influential books in scientific history. His investigations revolutionized our understanding of the interior of the human body and the methods physicians use to[…]

Hippocrates Didn’t Write the Oath, So Why is He the Father of Medicine?

Not the one we have fixed in our imaginations. Peter Paul Rubens, 1638 Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine, enemy of superstition, pioneer ofrationality and fount of eternal wisdom. By Dr. Helen King / 10.02.2014 Professor of Classical Studies The Open University Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine, enemy of superstition, pioneer of rationality and fount of eternal wisdom. Statues and drawings show him with a furrowed[…]

The Story of Maximo and Bartola: Apollo and the Aztecs

A baby with an encephalocele. Photograph by F.A. Hudson, 1869. Wellcome Library reference no. 34335i.3. By Dr. William Schupbach / 06.27.2016 Historian Microcephaly is a word that has come from nowhere to the newspapers’ front pages in a surprisingly short time, owing to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil coinciding with the preparations for the Olympic Games in Rio[…]

Severed Limbs and Wooden Feet: How the Ancients Invented Prosthetics

By Dr. Jane Draycott / 05.17.2017 Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Classics: Ancient Science and Technology University of Glasgow We are living through an incredibly exciting period for prosthetics. A pioneering brain computer interface that will allow veterans to control artificial body parts with their minds was recently announced by researchers in Virginia in the[…]

A Great Deal of Dying in Dr. Herz

Dr Cornelius Herz escapes extradition on the ground that he has a terminal illness, and lives happily in Bournemouth for fifteen years. Watercolour drawing by H.S. Robert, c. 1897. Wellcome Library no. 532785i By Dr. Richard Aspin / 12.04.2016 Head of Research Wellcome Library In 1893 a middle-aged American physician lay ‘dying’ in a Bournemouth hotel. Cornelius Herz[…]

Dutch Anatomy and Clinical Medicine in 17th-Century Europe

Entrance to Boerhaave Museum, Leiden, Netherlands / Photo by Erik Zachte, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. H.G. (Rina) Knoeff / 06.20.2012 Associate Professor of Early Modern History University of Groningen Introduction The Leiden University medical faculty was famous in 17th-century Europe. Students came from all over Europe to sit at the feet of the well-known medical teachers Peter[…]

Civil War Battlefield Medicine

Compiled by Jenny Goellnitz An Introduction to Civil War Medicine During the 1860s, doctors had yet to develop bacteriology and were generally ignorant of the causes of disease. Generally, Civil War doctors underwent two years of medical school, though some pursued more education. Medicine in the United States was woefully behind Europe. Harvard Medical School[…]