The Trial of Madame Restell (Ann Lohman) for Abortion in New York, 1841

The termination of Restell’s conviction involving Purdy kept her out of prison and allowed her to continue to perform abortions in New York. In the spring of 1841, abortionist Ann Lohman, called Madame Restell, was convicted for crimes against one of her abortion clients, Maria Purdy. In a deathbed confession, Purdy admitted that she had received an abortion provided[…]

Unearthing the Health of Victorian London

What bones tell us about the lives and deaths of the dead. In 2011, AOC Archaeology completed an archaeological excavation at St John’s Primary School, Peel Grove, in Bethnal Green, London, ahead of the construction of a new nursery school. The site was a former burial ground privately run as a commercial business by pawnbroker[…]

Health, Hygiene, and the Rise of ‘Mother Gin’ in Georgian Britain

Investigating health and hygiene in 18th century Britain, against a backdrop of industrialization and the subsequent over-crowding in the cities. Medical knowledge was very basic during the this period. While there were gradual improvements in healthcare, for many people even minor diseases could prove fatal. Living Conditions The growth of cities and towns during the[…]

Visible Proofs: A History of Forensic Medicine

Forensic medicine, also called “medical jurisprudence” or “legal medicine,” emerged in the 1600s. The Rise of Forensics Overview As European nation-states and their judicial systems developed, physicians and surgeons participated more frequently in legal proceedings. By the late 1700s, medical jurisprudence had become a standard subject in the medical curriculum. In the early 1800s, Parisian[…]

When Television Was a Medical Device

Retracing the history of media technologies in the practice of medicine. Reba Benschoter readied herself to speak before the crowd of luminaries from industry, academia, and government who had gathered to talk about the transformative potential of new media in medicine. Among those assembled at the New York Academy of Sciences that day in 1966[…]

David Livingstone and Victorian Medicine

Analyzing the evolving state of British health in the nineteenth century and how Livingstone’s perceptions of this health influenced his understanding of Africa and his writings. By Christopher Lawrence British Health in the 19th Century The practice and understanding of medicine profoundly changed during the years of Livingstone’s life (1813-1873). These changes grew out of[…]

Curandero: Peruvian Shamans and Nature’s Medicine Cabinet

In Peru, the challenge of providing health care to the country’s citizens has spurred interest in alternative medicines that draw on cultural traditions. By Jane Palmer Under the clear, moonlit sky of Friday, July 13, 2018, Elide Sanchez Rivera steps into her own star—a large, white symbol chalked into the dusty ground. With the sound[…]

Medicine in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Islamic World

In the 17th century, early modern European medical theory had an impact upon Islamic medicine through the writings of the Paracelsians. As the Islamic world became increasingly fragmented, the patronage and accompanying prestige and security enjoyed by the leading physicians declined. Spain was lost, European crusaders made repeated invasions into the central lands, and in[…]

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: Hero, Humanitarian, and Teacher

She used her skills as a teacher to become not only the first American female physician but also its first female professor of medicine. To celebrate Women’s History Month, the television quiz show Jeopardy, recently posted a category related to female historical figures. The contestants, sharp, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, answered all the questions in that category, except for[…]

Camera Obscura: Accuracy and Elegance in Cheselden’s Osteographia (1733)

With its novel vignettes and its use of a camera obscura in the production of the plates, William Cheselden’s Osteographia, is recognized as a landmark in the history of anatomical illustration. Monique Kornell looks at its unique blend of accuracy and elegance. By Dr. Monique KornellIndependent Scholar of Anatomical Illustration A lavishly illustrated and particularly[…]

Dealing with ‘the Devil’ in Medieval and Early Modern European Medicine

During the devil’s last apogee in early modern Europe, demonic afflictions were taken seriously by both priests and physicians. Thirty children in Amsterdam began to show signs of a disturbing affliction in the winter of 1566. The symptoms would strike without warning: the children would at first be seized by a violent frenzy, then fall[…]

Jonas Salk and the Eradication of Polio

Even before the 1952 and 1953 outbreaks, labs had been worked diligently to find a cure for Polio. By Dr. Atif KukaswadiaEpidemiologist Poliomyelitis is an infectious viral disease. It enters through the mouth and is usually spread by contaminated drinking water or food. The virus passes through the stomach and then replicates in the lining[…]

Ancient Chinese Alchemy

Chinese alchemists developed methods for manipulating minerals and altering the state of substances. Introduction Most of us are familiar with parts of the history of alchemy; the stories of the Philosopher’s Stone and turning base metal into gold have diffused into mainstream films and books. These tales evoke visions of grey bearded men at the royal court[…]

Caterina Sforza: Fearless Regent and Scientist of 15th-Century Italy

Sforza was an early scientist who experimented with chemistry and medicine. By Amy Lifson Caterina Sforza, the infamous fifteenth-century Italian regent of Forlì and Imola, was also an early scientist who experimented with chemistry and medicine. On the cover of Meredith K. Ray’s NEH-supported Daughters of Alchemy, a portrait of her, reproduced and seen above,[…]

Medicine in the Middle Ages

In this period, there was no tradition of scientific medicine, and observations went hand in hand with spiritual and religious influences. By Dr. Rachel HajarCardiologyHamad Medical Corporation Introduction Superstition is the poison of the mind Joseph Lewis “The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome” ended when Rome fell to Germanic tribes[…]

Medical Treatments in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians experienced the same wide array of disease that people do in the present day. Introduction The ancient Egyptians experienced the same wide array of disease that people do in the present day, but unlike most people in the modern era, they attributed the experience to supernatural causes. The common cold, for example,[…]

The Discovery of Infectious Diseases in 2,000-Year-Old Silk Road Feces

How a research team identified parasites in ‘hygiene sticks’ that travellers on the Silk Road effectively used as their toilet paper. Once travelled by famous historical figures such as Marco Polo and Genghis Khan, the Silk Road was a hugely important network of transport routes connecting eastern China with Central Asia, the Middle East and[…]

Sex Education with Andreas Vesalius in the Early Modern World

Looking beyond an initial impression to dissect what is happening beyond the surface in particular historical contexts. On the first day of my class, ‘Witches, Workers, & Wives,’ I showed students an image from Book 5 of Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books).At first glance, my students[…]

A Brief History of the Pharmacy in the United States

Today’s status of the profession and those who practice it results from an evolution over thousands of years. Introduction The statement that “What is past is prologue” [1] appears on the base of Robert Aitken’s sculpture “The Future” outside the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. This is to remind us that we should study[…]

Interpreting “Physick”: The Familiar and Foreign Eighteenth-Century Body

Eighteenth-century medical practitioners faced menaces like cholera, dysentery, measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, syphilis, typhus, typhoid, tuberculosis, and yellow fever. Introduction Aspirin. It’s inevitable. When asked what medicine they’d want most if they lived in the eighteenth century, the visitors will struggle in silence for few moments. Then, someone will offer, “Aspirin?” Sometimes it’s delivered with[…]

Terrestriality: A History of Exploration and Its Effects on Health

Is the human body innately terrestrial, unsuited to a prolonged time away from its earthly element? On December 1, 2006, just past 18:30 GMT, Michael D. Griffin, Administrator of NASA, took the podium at the Royal Society of London. A physicist and engineer, Griffin nevertheless chose, at this event, to consider the history of the[…]

On the Death—and Life—of Florence Nightingale

Examining the death, and the life, of Florence Nightingale, the great nursing heroine of the Crimean War. Abstract This essay examines the death, and the life, of Florence Nightingale, the great nursing heroine of the Crimean War. An eminent Victorian, Nightingale passed away at the ripe old age of ninety in 1910, at a time[…]

Clara Barton and the Origins of the Red Cross

Staring at bloodied soldiers in a train station one fateful April day, Clara Barton rolled up her sleeves and got to work. On April 19, 1861, “indignant, excited, alarmed and scarcely knowing where she went,” Clara Barton followed the crowds on the streets of Washington City to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot, “where she[…]

The Canon of Avicenna: Rabies in Medieval Persian Literature

A discussion of Avicenna’s 11th-century points of view on rabies and compare them with modern medical knowledge. By Dr. Behnam Dalfardi, et.al.Department of Internal MedicineShiraz University of Medical Sciences Introduction Rabies is an acute, progressive, and fatal anthropozoonotic infection of the central nervous system caused by viruses from the genus Lyssavirus and the family Rhabdoviridae[…]

The Hidayat: ‘Kabus’ (Night-Mare) in Medieval Persian Medicine and Research

Among the first three manuscripts written in Persian, Akhawayni’s Hidayat al-muta’allemin fi al-tibb was the most significant work compiled in the 10th century. By Dr. Samad EJ Golzari, et.al.Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Research CenterTabriz University of Medical Sciences Abstract Among the first three manuscripts written in Persian, Akhawayni’s Hidayat al-muta’allemin fi al-tibb was the most significant work compiled in[…]

Flower Power: Alexander Hamilton’s Doctor and the Healing Power of Nature

Rebecca Rego Barry on Dr. David Hosack, the doctor who attended Alexander Hamilton to his duel (and death), and creator of one of the first botanical gardens in the United States, home to thousands of species which he used for his pioneering medical research. Hosack mostly rejected customary treatments like bloodletting and doses of mercury.[…]

A Pirate Surgeon in 17th-Century Panama

Almost everything we know about Dr. Lionel Wafer comes from his own pen. He enters the historical record as a teenage surgeon’s apprentice. The ship came to anchor on an August evening. Sea fireflies glowed around the moorings, their indigo light making specters of the sailors’ gaunt faces. There had already been two mutinies, and[…]