How could sea bathing be undertaken both to stop, and to start, menstruation?
Here’s a particularly fine case of Bad History, showing that while it’s bad enough to modify an ancient text to make it into a precursor of a modern condition, it’s even worse to misread a remedy as a symptom in order to make a historical text do what you want it to do! Trotula… Continue reading Making a disease from a remedy: Trotula and vaginismus
How do we know what's wrong with our bodies? We may be aware of symptoms – of pains, twinges, immobility. We can also aware of some of our bodily fluids: our saliva, sweat, urine, menses or semen. Sometimes a fluid which is clearly abnormal emerges from an orifice or a wound. If we seek medical treatment, our blood… Continue reading Humoral medicine: a beginner’s guide
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
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