diseases, death, teaching

The Chameleon in the Classroom

This is a story of illness and magic from the fourth century CE. Even though Constantine had converted the Roman Empire to Christianity, paganism didn’t just lie down and die. One of the most famous pagan intellectuals was Libanius, a distinguished orator who taught rhetoric to famous Christian figures such as Basil the Great and… Continue reading The Chameleon in the Classroom

diseases, doctors, medical instruments, museums and collections

Le bruit de diable: gunpowder, tops and purring cats

No, this isn’t a telescope, it’s a stethoscope. René Laennec (1781-1826) invented this device in 1816, as a way to solve the ethical dilemma of having to put his ear to the chest of a young woman patient. He started with a rolled up piece of paper to help him hear her heart and her breathing, but… Continue reading Le bruit de diable: gunpowder, tops and purring cats

death, diseases, love, museums and collections, remedies

The ‘Rapunzel syndrome’

Who’s your favourite Disney princess? How about the lovely Rapunzel, whose long golden hair – according to ‘Tangled’ (2010) – has healing properties? Every now and then I come across a disorder or a remedy I had not only never heard about, but had never imagined… Such is ‘Rapunzel syndrome’. To backtrack a little, and… Continue reading The ‘Rapunzel syndrome’

diseases, food, Galen, menstruation, remedies

Constipation in History

Faeces are big news: every few months another story appears pointing to the potential benefits of faecal transplants in a range of bowel conditions. The internet includes DIY advice along with suggestions of banking our own poo so that we can reboot our digestive system from it if anything goes wrong. Examining the patient’s bodily products,… Continue reading Constipation in History