Thomas Scattergood: Forensic Toxicology in Victorian Yorkshire

Saltaire Victorian village – Bradford, Yorkshire, England. UNESCO World Heritage Site As a regional forensic expert, Thomas Scattergood takes his place in the historiography of crime and forensic practice in England. By Dr. Cassie Watson and Dr. Laura Sellers / 12.19.2017 Introduction Dr Thomas Scattergood, First Dean of Medicine at Yorkshire College (1884–1900) Thomas Scattergood,[…]

Diagnosing the Past

The diagnosis: a skeletal doctor measures a patient’s pulse, L. Crusius / Wellcome Collection, Creative commons Texts that are hundreds of years old might yield clues to medical problems of the past. But without a body, a definitive diagnosis is rarely possible. And unless you know the context of what you’re reading, it’s possible to go[…]

The Chymist’s Trade Card: When 18th-Century Pharmacy Usurped Alchemy

An 18th-century trade card reveals a lot more than its owner might have intended. By Julia Nurse / 10.26.2017 Collections Researcher Wellcome Library Imagine entering the shop of chymist (the word ‘chemist’ was not used until 1790) Richard Siddall as it appears on his trade card from around 1750. If the representation is at all[…]

Illuminated Manuscripts, Illuminating Medicines

From hunting rare bugs to harvesting the world’s most expensive plant parts, conservator Cheryl Porter will try almost anything to learn more about pigments from the past. These colours weren’t only used to illuminate manuscripts and paintings – they were also important medicines, and artists would often source the raw materials for their work from[…]

The Stranger Who Started an Epidemic in 19th-Century New Orleans

A huge expansion of the population of New Orleans created the perfect environment for the spread of yellow fever, and recent immigrants were those that suffered most. Doctors put this down to their “loathsome” lifestyles, but science was eventually to find another culprit. By Anna Faherty / 06.15.2017 Associate Lecturer University of the Arts London[…]

The Rise and Fall of a 19th-Century Medical Mesmerist

The story of a flamboyant doctor whose famous fans included Dickens. But his experiments with hypnosis eventually met with establishment disapproval. By Wendy Moore / 04.23.2018 Journalist and Medical Historian We think of libraries as places of quiet solitude where information is reassuringly organised, ordered and catalogued. Yet for me one of the best things about[…]

Mesmerising Science: The Franklin Commission and the Modern Clinical Trial

Detail from a coloured etching after C-L. Desrais depicting people gathered around the “baquet” at one of Franz Mesmer’s group animal magnetism sessions / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons Benjamin Franklin, magnetic trees, and erotically-charged séances — Urte Laukaityte on how a craze for sessions of “animal magnetism” in late 18th-century Paris led to the randomised[…]

Medical Treatment and the English Seaside in the 18th Century

Venus’s bathing. (Margate). Side way or any way., Thomas Rowlandson / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons Fashionable seaside towns in England owe much of their popularity to the 18th-century doctors who advised their patients to take the ‘sea cure’. By Dr. Jane Darcy / 05.23.2018 Professor of Literature University College London Introduction How did the so-called ‘sea[…]

Shakespeare’s Cholerics Were the Real Drama Queens

Taming of the Shrew, 1809, by Washington Allston / Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public Domain In Shakespeare’s times, personalities were categorised according to four temperaments. The choleric temperament was hot-tempered and active, as Nelly Ekström describes. By Nelly Ekström / 12.11.2016 Visitor Experience Assistant Wellcome Trust William Shakespeare’s plays provide examples of all four temperaments, but it’s[…]

Shakespeare and the Four Humours

Profile of William Shakespeare, c.1793 / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons Blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile: the body’s four humours were believed to control your personality in Shakespeare’s day and influenced the way the Bard created some of his most famous characters. By Nelly Ekström / 12.11.2016 Visitor Experience Assistant Wellcome Trust Shakespeare’s writing is one[…]

Graphic Battles of Pharmacy: 19th-Century Medicine Confronts Quackery

Grants and Oddities. This patient is shown to have sprouted vegetable offshoots after taking 132 boxes of vegetable pills. The caption is full of vegetable puns. / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons James Morison’s campaign against the medical establishment inspired a wave of caricatures mocking his quack medicine. Wellcome Trust Pharmagraphics / 11.01.2017 In the 1830s, the[…]

Goop: A Classicist’s Take on the ‘Power’ of Ancient Remedies

In Ancient Greek texts, the king Lycaon is punished for misdeeds by being turned into a wolf. / Wikimedia Commons Tapping into ancient knowledge can help us feel connected to our ancestors – but that doesn’t mean we should take their advice. By Adam Parker / 10.31.2018 PhD Candidate in Classical Studies The Open University Lifestyle company Goop –[…]

The Art of Healing: Five Medicinal Plants Used by Aboriginal Australians

Balgo artists: Miriam Baadjo (b. 1957),Tossie Baadjo (b. 1958), Jane Gimme (b. 1958), Gracie Mosquito (b. 1955), Helen Nagomara (b. 1953), Ann Frances Nowee (b. 1964) and Imelda Yukenbarri (b. 1954). Bush medicine: a collaborative work by women from Wirrimanu (Balgo), 2018, acrylic on linen, 120×180cm, MHM2018.32, © Warlayirti Artists; Medical History Museum, Author provided At least[…]

Visible Violence: Head and Face Wounds in Early Medieval Europe to 1000 CE

An unhealed gash on the forehead suggests that the man died a violent death, perhaps in battle. / Photo by Mauro Rubini, Creative Commons Head and facial trauma were the most serious of injuries in early medieval society due to their very visibility. By Dr. Patricia Skinner Professor of Early and Middle Medieval Europe Swansea University[…]

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[…]