How the Civil War Drove Medical Innovation

The federal government was able to spur innovation to meet the needs of the crisis. Introduction The current COVID-19 pandemic, the largest public health crisis in a century, threatens the health of people across the globe. The U.S. has had the most diagnosed cases – surpassing 6 million – and more than 180,000 deaths. But[…]

Two Surgeries, 800 Years Apart: Aztec Medical Technology and Today

An archaeologist’s hip surgery prompts him to think of the experience of a Puebloan woman who survived a terrible fall centuries ago. As an archaeologist, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what life was like in the past. I’ve also been injured a time or two, and I’ve wondered if any of my nonfatal[…]

The Steampunk Doctor: Practicing Medicine in a Victorian Mechanical Age

Steampunk examines the consequences extraordinary medical discoveries can have on both individuals and societies. Abstract Influenced by both 19th-century literature and popular representations of science, the figure of the medical doctor in steampunk fiction is marked by ambiguity. At the same time a scientist, a wizard and a mechanic, the steampunk doctor exists halfway between[…]

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Pioneering Death as a Part of Medical Practice

Kübler-Ross was one of the central figures in the hospice care movement. Introduction Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, and author of the internationally best-selling book, On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief,[…]

Helen Taussig: Changing the Face of Medicine for Children in the 20th Century

She was the first woman to be elected head of the American Heart Association. Introduction Helen Brooke Taussig (May 24, 1898 – May 20, 1986) was an American cardiologist, working in Baltimore and Boston, who founded the field of pediatric cardiology. She is credited with developing the concept for a procedure that would extend the[…]

Ginger’s Role in Cures and Courtroom Battles in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Exploring the surprising and complex ways that ginger has played a role in preventing sickness through history. Introduction Some people use ginger to help with tummy troubles, but for others it has caused more problems than it has solved. We explore the surprising and complex ways that ginger has played a role in preventing sickness[…]

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Father of Modern Neuroscience

Although he became one of the founders of neuroscience, as a young man Ramón y Cajal wanted to be an artist. Introduction Santiago Ramón y Cajal (May 1, 1852 – October 17, 1934) was a Spanish histologist (study of tissues) and physician who (along with Camillo Golgi) won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine[…]

Paul Broca: 19th-Century French Physician, Anatomist, and Medical Pioneer

Paul Broca’s early scientific works dealt with the histology of cartilage and bone, but he also studied the pathology of cancer. Introduction Paul Pierre Broca (June 28, 1824 – July 9, 1880) was a French physician, anatomist, and anthropologist. He is famous for his work on brain lateralization, and the discovery of the center for[…]

Hands, Holes, and Hashtags: Exploring a Medieval Medical Manuscript

All of the extra features, such as marginal glossing and pointing hands, tell you about how the manuscript was used. The first manuscript that I ever encountered face-to-face was Wellcome MS. 550. This volume, mainly in medieval Latin, dates from the early 15th century, and is a compendium of different medical and surgical writings. As[…]

Fourteenth-Century England, Medical Ethics, and the Plague

The plague remained endemic for 300 years, returning every so often to cull the population. Introduction In the 20th and 21st centuries, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the threat of bioterror attacks have raised questions about the role of the physician in response to epidemics. Modern medical ethics, with its[…]

Early Uses of Diphtheria Antitoxin in the United States

The transition to use of diphtheria antitoxin to treat ill humans happened quickly. It’s hard to identify exactly when it was first used. Introduction One of the fascinating things about the history of vaccinology is how quickly late 19th century researchers moved from identifying microbes as the cause of certain diseases to developing ways to[…]

Cholera Outbreaks and Pandemics since 1817

Between 1816 and 1923, the first six cholera pandemics occurred consecutively and continuously over time. Introduction Seven cholera pandemics have occurred in the past 200 years, with the first pandemic originating in India in 1817. Additionally, there have been many documented cholera outbreaks, such as a 1991–1994 outbreak in South America and, more recently, the[…]

Philadelphia Under Siege: The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

20,000 people, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and much of the federal government fled the city to escape the fever. By Samuel A. Gum The summer was the hottest in years. The humidity was hardly bearable. The muddy swamps of Philadelphia spawned round after round of mosquitoes which relentlessly assaulted their human blood meals. An[…]

Great Sorrows: The Deadly ‘Throat Distemper’, 1735-1736

When Massachusetts was hit by Diptheria and Scarlett Fever at the same time. In 1736, scarlet fever was present in Boston and neighboring towns, but while the scarlet fever epidemic was spreading out from Boston, the diphtheria epidemic was descending from the north, and in Essex county they traveled along the Old Bay Road at[…]

18th-Century Medicinal Balsams, Gums, and Resins from the Indies to Madrid

Transporting plants and their by-products by long transoceanic voyages was a complex operation during the 18th century. By Dr. Marcelo Fabián FigueroaProfessor of HistoryUniversidad Nacional de Tucumán-UNTInstituto Superior de Estudios SocialesConsejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas-ISES/CONICET Introduction This paper studies the administrative, legal and scientific instructions issued by the Spanish Ministry of the Indies[…]

How to Maintain Medical Accounts Receivable Collections?

Introduction Once a medical practice bills a patient for the provided services, the amount delivered by the patients to the practitioners is called AR (Account Receivables). It can be classified by the time of patient billing. If your practice is in AR for 20 days, it means that you have not received payment of 20[…]

The Origins and Meanings of Pharmacy Symbols

The London Clinic / Photo by Ben Gilbert, Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons What have snakes, unicorns and crocodiles got to do with pharmacies? Modern pharmaceutical signs have a long history going back to the Greek gods. Wellcome Trust / 11.09.2017 While alchemists used secret symbols to disguise their chemical formulations, pharmacists used the tools of[…]

Beating the Bodysnatchers in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Mortsafes at Kinnernie graveyard, Aberdeenshire / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons When an expansion in the study of anatomy at medical schools fuelled a brisk trade in grave robbing, families fought to protect their loved ones’ remains. Allison C. Meier explains how mortsafes kept the bodysnatchers at bay. By Allison C. Meier / 06.14.2018 Introduction In the Scottish hamlet[…]

The Art and Knowledge in Medieval Herbals

The illustrations in medieval herbals are beautiful and mysterious. But if you know how to read them, they also convey a wealth of knowledge about the plants they portray. By Julia Nurse / 10.04.2017 Collections Researcher Wellcome Library The illustrated herbal has an almost unbroken line of descent from the ancient Greeks to the Middle[…]

Mapping the Body with ‘Ayurvedic Man’ in 18th-Century Nepal

Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons An exquisite treasury of illustrations and objects, the Ayurvedic Man picture book presents a visual history of some of the earliest medical systems and healing practices in the world. It traces Ayurveda and Indian medicine as they travelled from East to West, gaining, losing and regaining popularity over the centuries. This extract features a[…]

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[…]