‘Walking Corpses’: Life as a Leper in Medieval Eurasia

Medieval society was compelled to adapt to the presence of the chronically ill. Conventional narratives tell us that medieval lepers were pariahs who lived out their days as rejected invalids, rotting away in decrepit asylums, quarantined from society. Some of this is true. The disease became so common in Europe, however, that medieval society was[…]

Asclepius, Ancient Greek God of Medicine

By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Asclepius was the ancient Greek god of medicine and he was also credited with powers of prophecy. The god had several sanctuaries across Greece; the most famous was at Epidaurus which became an important centre of healing in both ancient Greek and Roman times and was the site of athletic, dramatic,[…]

Measles in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The measles virus probably descended from the ancestors of the modern canine distemper and/or rinderpest viruses. By Dr. Louise CillersResearch FellowGreek, Latin, and Classical StudiesUniversity of the Free State Introduction Although no longer a formidable epidemic disease, measles is still responsible for up to 2 million deaths per annum – mainly among children in developing[…]

Medical Anesthesia and Surgery in Ancient Rome

Examining the type of anesthesia and techniques employed to prepare patients for invasive surgery in ancient Rome. Abstract During the Roman Imperial period countless legionnaires received wounds and injuries requiring surgery. The principles of immediacy and expectancy emphasized that the timing of care after trauma was as important as the quality of care. The use[…]

Medicine in Ancient Rome

Treatments became more well known, and surgery became more sophisticated. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Roman medicine was greatly influenced by earlier Greek medical practice and literature but would also make its own unique contribution to the history of medicine through the work of such famous experts as Galen and Celsus. Whilst there were professional doctors[…]

4 Reasons to Treat Mental Illness Like We Do Physical Illness

In the United States, 46.4 percent of adults will experience a mental illness at some point during their life. Less than half of the people included in this percentage will seek out the help they need. Why are people so opposed to getting help for their mental illness? When mental health is important, why does it take a[…]

Zombie Flu: How the 1919 Influenza Pandemic Fueled the Rise of the Living Dead

The 1918-1919 flu claimed millions of lives worldwide. Could it also have given birth to the viral zombie? Introduction Zombies have lurched to the center of Halloween culture, with costumes proliferating as fast as the monsters themselves. This year, you can dress as a zombie prom queen, a zombie doctor – even a zombie rabbit[…]

Galen: Greek Physician, Author, and Philosopher in Ancient Rome

Much of our knowledge of early medicine comes from Galen’s writings. Introduction Galen (129-216 CE) was a Greek physician, author, and philosopher, working in Rome, who influenced both medical theory and practice until the middle of the 17th century CE. Owning a large, personal library, he wrote hundreds of medical treatises including anatomical, physiological, pharmaceutical,[…]

Jonas Salk and the War Against Polio

In the years after WWII, America had two great fears: communism, and polio. By Amanda McGowanHistorian For years, the fight against polio was considered one of the most successful vaccination campaigns of all time. But now, the reappearance of the disease in countries like Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon has thrown that success into jeopardy.  How was[…]

Vaccines through the Centuries

The armamentarium of vaccines continues to grow with more emphasis on safety, availability, and accessibility. Abstract Multiple cornerstones have shaped the history of vaccines, which may contain live-attenuated viruses, inactivated organisms/viruses, inactivated toxins, or merely segments of the pathogen that could elicit an immune response. The story began with Hippocrates 400 B.C. with his description[…]

Evidence Confirms Health Benefits of an Ancient Chinese Sweetness

Examining two recent discoveries in goji berry chemistry and shedding light on how and why they are beneficial to your health. What in the Heck Is a Goji Berry? For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, (worry not, you’re about to be) goji berries (fruits of Lycium barbarum –L. and Lycium chinense –Mill.) originate from and have[…]

Greenland Unicorns and the Magical Alicorn

When the existence of unicorns, and the curative powers of the horns ascribed to them, began to be questioned, one Danish physician pushed back through curious means — by reframing the unicorn as an aquatic creature of the northern seas. Natalie Lawrence on a fascinating convergence of established folklore, nascent science, and pharmaceutical economy. This[…]

Mother Machine: An ‘Uncanny Valley’ in Eighteenth-Century Medicine

This curious machine was meant to answer the problem of the moment: how to provide sufficient training for new (male) midwives. The eighteenth century was an age of mechanization, from Cartesian conceptions of animals as machines to nerve theory and early experiments in electricity. Mechanists argued that interaction among the body’s parts, its “animal machinery,”[…]

The Beginning of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic – and One Doctor’s Search for a Cure

It was unparalleled, this confluence of public health, politics, clinical medicine, and public anxiety. The following is an excerpt from The Impatient Dr. Lange by Dr. Seema Yasmin. Before the living dead roamed the hospital, the sharp angles of their bones poking through paper-thin bed sheets and diaphanous nightgowns, there was one patient, a harbinger of what[…]

Dorothea Dix and Cornelia Hancock: Two Views of Civil War Nursing

Thousands of women volunteered as nurses during the Civil War. On April 14, 1861, Fort Sumter fell—the beginning of four years of brutal war.  President Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 militia volunteers to put down what he described as a state of insurrection. The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of men enlisted. But Lincoln[…]

The Evolution of Nursing in the 19th Century

Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from the beginning. As caretakers of children, family and community, it was natural that women were the nurses, the caregivers, as human society evolved. Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from[…]

Printing the Body: Anatomical Illustration in the Early Modern Period

For over 500 years, scientific and artistic collaborations have enhanced and promoted medical knowledge. Introduction From the early modern period, as perceptions of the internal and external workings of the body developed, the methods of depicting the body also advanced. But it was not until the 1750s that anatomical art truly began to flourish. The number[…]

Fever in the Tropics: David Livingstone and Ideas of Causes

Contrasting nineteenth-century ideas (including Livingstone’s own) about fever with modern ideas about the causes and appropriate treatment for fever. By Christopher Lawrence Introduction Livingstone’s writings recurrently return to the problem of fever as the greatest threat to the health of travellers in Africa. Livingstone died shortly before modern germ theory was developed and well before[…]

David Livingstone’s Medical Education

A detailed description of Livingstone’s medical education and an overview of how his education affected his recording strategies in Africa. By Christopher Lawrence Introduction As is well known, Livingstone was born into a poor, deeply religious family at Blantyre, near Glasgow, Scotland. After rudimentary schooling he worked in the town’s cotton mill. What set him[…]

The Prince of Quacks (and How He Captivated London)

James Graham, founder of the Temple of Health, benefitted from his undeniable flair for showmanship and his talent for leaping on trends. Let me set the scene: In late eighteenth-century England, ladies and gentlemen flocked to exhibitions of solar microscopes. The miniature world of mites and polyps was blown up and cast on the wall like[…]

Crime and Punishment in Ancient Surgery: An Examination of Assyrian and Egyptian Physicians

The history of surgery is a fascinating collection of knowledge from various civilizations dating back up to four thousand years. By Amana Ali and Johna SD Abstract The history of physicians’ roles in ancient Babylonia and Egypt has been studied and documented extensively, however, surgeons’ roles in these societies are somewhat less understood. Ancient Assyrian/Babylonian[…]

The Historical Development of Modern Surgery in America

Reviewing the great surgical advances in the United States in the last century. By Dr. Yeu-Tsu Margaret LeeGeneral Surgeon and Surgical Oncologist Abstract Surgeons use operative procedure to save life and to treat patient’s disease. Advances are made with new operations and/or designing and modification of surgical instrument. This paper reviews the great surgical advances[…]

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[…]