Monastic Medicine: Medieval Herbalism and Science

Examining modern remedies derived from medieval monastic knowledge. Most people think of herbal medicine as a distinctly ‘alternative’ option – something that you might try for a cough or cold that won’t budge, but not for life-threatening illnesses. Medical historian Dr Johannes Mayer, however, takes it all much more seriously: he believes that the herbal[…]

Ancient and Medieval Religious Belief and Medicine

The spirits and gods were believed to make their presence known through disease. Introduction When people fall ill they inevitably ask: ‘Why am I ill?’ and ‘How do I get better?’ Throughout history, the answers have been sought and provided through a mixture of natural, spiritual and moral meanings. People have rarely understood illness through[…]

Inoculation in the 18th Century

Vaccination led ultimately to the eradication of smallpox, one of the great achievements of medicine. By Arthur Boylston Introduction Early in the 18th century, variolation (referred to then as ‘inoculation’) was introduced to Britain and New England to protect people likely to be at risk of infection with smallpox. This triggered a number of important[…]

The Journey of Vaccines, Past and Present

Inoculation spread all over the world and revolutionized the field of vaccination against several other infectious diseases. Introduction The history of the process of vaccination and the concept to vaccinate is 1000 of year old (>3000 years) that originated in the ancient Indian peninsula (Northern and Eastern India) as a practice of variolation/inoculation (the immunization of[…]

An Historical Overview of the Polio Epidemic

Polio was nearly eradicated with the Salk vaccine in 1955. Little was known about this mysterious disease that paralyzed and sometimes killed young children. Introduction The fear and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic may feel new to many of us. But it is strangely familiar to those who lived through the polio epidemic of the[…]

Edward Jenner and the Search for the Smallpox Vaccine in the 18th Century

His work led to systematically developing, testing, and popularizing inoculation that saved countless lives. Introduction Edward B. Jenner (May 17, 1749 – January 26, 1823) was an English physician and scientist who is most recognized for introducing and popularizing an effective and relatively safe means of vaccination against smallpox, a discovery that proved to be[…]

How Rabies Symptoms Inspired Folktales of Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Monsters

Fear of a disease that seemed to turn people into beasts might have inspired belief in supernatural beings that live on in today’s creepy Halloween costumes. Introduction In 1855, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the gruesome murder of a bride by her new husband. The story came from the French countryside, where the woman’s[…]

Masters of Healing: Cocaine and Victorian Medicine

The relationship between cocaine and medical practitioners in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. Introduction Cocaine is often understood as one of a number of potentially addictive substances to which Victorian physicians and surgeons were regularly exposed, and tempted to indulge in. However, while cocaine has frequently been associated with discourses of addiction, this article[…]

El Curandero: Shamans of Mesoamerica and the Amazon

Disease is thought to be caused by intrusion or soul loss, evil spirits, sorcerers, or broken taboos. By Dr. Robert M. TorranceProfessor Emeritus of Comparative LiteratureUniversity of California, Davis Introduction In much of Middle America, from the northern borders of Mexico to the Isthmus of Panama, and especially in Mesoamerica—the large regions once dominated by[…]

The ‘Doe Shaman’ of Pre-Columbian Costa Rica and Nicaragua

This would have been placed in a grave to embody the shaman’s power that would help the deceased make their safe passage from life to death. From the Physical to Spiritual World (the Shaman) An important visual theme in many ancient American art styles is that of transformation: one thing changing into another. Often the[…]

The Hippocratic Ideal: Health Care Practices in Ancient Greece

The Hippocratic philosophy on health care provision applied standards and ethical rules that are still valid today. By Dr. Chrisanthos SfakianakisProfessor, Nursing DepartmentTechnological Institute of Crete Abstract Asclepius and Hippocrates focused medical practice on the natural approach and treatment of diseases, highlighting the importance of understanding the patient’s health, independence of mind, and the need[…]

Pox in the City

From cows to controversy, the smallpox vaccine triumphed. Not malaria. Not cholera. Not AIDS, influenza, measles, or tuberculosis. Not even bubonic plague. No disease in history has destroyed more lives than the “speckled monster,” smallpox. The pattern repeated itself in every empire: Egyptian, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Chinese. Outbreaks always started subtly, with flu-like[…]

Arsenic: The “Poison of Kings” and the “Saviour of Syphilis”

The toxic properties of arsenic were known by Hippocrates in 370 BCE. By John Frith Introduction Arsenic is a substance that has been well known to both the ‘healer’ and the ‘poisoner’ throughout history.  It is ubiquitous in  our environment and it is a potent neurological and liver toxin as well as a lung, bladder[…]

How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread across America

The toll of history’s worst epidemic surpasses all the military deaths in World War I and World War II combined. Haskell County, Kansas, lies in the southwest corner of the state, near Oklahoma and Colorado. In 1918 sod houses were still common, barely distinguishable from the treeless, dry prairie they were dug out of. It had[…]

What are the Advancement Opportunities for Medical Assistants?

The healthcare industry requires new professionals on a daily basis, especially with the increasing health crisis globally. One such sub-discipline within the health industry belongs to the medical assistants. The first job title for all medical assistance graduates is usually entry-level or junior CMA. However, there are a myriad of options waiting for you after[…]

Indigenous Medicine: A Fusion of Ritual and Remedy

Aborigines were hunter gatherers – not cultivators – so there was little intentional interference with natural selection of native plants. Introduction In traditional Indigenous Australian society, healers used plants in tandem with precise ritual. Thousands of years later, we’re beginning to understand the science underlying these medicines. A variety of plant species were used in[…]

Jonas Salk’s Battle with Anti-Vaxxers in His Time

He had to deal with critics like Walter Winchell, who warned, “It may be a killer.” It turned out to be a saving grace. In 1952, Americans suffered the worst polio epidemic in our nation’s history. As in prior outbreaks, the disease spread during the summer, mainly attacking children who had been exposed to contaminated[…]

The Women Who Built Mayo Clinic

Franciscan nuns, physicians, anesthesiologists, and social workers helped created a pathbreaking medical center. Several years ago, a few colleagues and I discovered a well-kept secret about Mayo Clinic, where we all worked. We had decided to create a Jeopardy game for Women’s History Month based on women who were involved in the early years of[…]

Avicenna and His Medical Influence in Medieval Europe

Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine was used for several centuries in medieval Europe and the Arab world as a major medical textbook. Introduction Ibn Sina (980-1037 C.E.), often referred to by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian physician, philosopher, and scientist. He was one of the major Islamic philosophers and his philosophical writings had a[…]

Paracelsus: Aggressive and Outspoken Medieval Medical Practitioner

His aggressive manner of teaching and his outspoken criticism of traditional medical theory made him unwelcome in medieval universities. Introduction Paracelsus (November 11 or December 17, 1493 – 24 September, 1541) was a Swiss alchemist, physician, astrologer, and philosopher. Born Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, he took the name Paracelsus later in life, meaning[…]

Galen: Ancient Greek Pioneer in Medical Surgery

Galen’s experimental methods foreshadowed later developments of Western scientific medicine. Introduction Galen (129 C.E. – c. 210 C.E.) was the Greek physician and philosopher whose views were most instrumental in the development of medicine in the late Greco-Roman period. Galen valued observation, experimentation, and logical analysis in the studies of medicine, and conducted a number[…]

Hippocrates: Ancient Greek Physician Who Made Medicine a Profession

Hippocrates is commonly portrayed as the paragon of the ancient physician. Introduction Hippocrates of Cos II, or Hippokrates of Kos, was an ancient Greek physician of the “Age of Pericles,” and was considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is referred to as the “father of medicine” in recognition[…]

Medieval Salerno, the Mother of Medical Schools

Through the twelfth century, Salernitan masters showed a growing interest in theoretical foundations. Medical practice and learning in the vibrant city of Salerno were nourished by the Greek past of southern Italy, favored by healing shrines in the tradition of Cos and Epidauros, energized by trade with Sicily and across the Mediterranean, and fostered by[…]