birth, death, Hippocrates, midwives, pregnancy

Birth and risk: perceiving risk in historical societies

How can you work out past societies' awareness of risk, before stats come along to help? How was risk handled in ancient Greece?

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doctors, drugs, ethics, Hippocrates

Should physicians treat their enemies?

  There are a lot of mistaken ideas about the ‘Hippocratic oath’; for example, that it was written by the real Hippocrates (deeply unlikely – probably written way after his supposed lifetime); that it bans abortion (no, it bans giving an abortive pessary to someone asking for one, so other methods could be fine, and… Continue reading Should physicians treat their enemies?

diseases, doctors, food, Galen, Hippocrates, menstruation, remedies

Humoral medicine: a beginner’s guide

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

death, dissection, Galen, Hippocrates, museums and collections

Theatres of Anatomy

Every other year, I lead a tour group which visits two historic anatomy theatres: the oldest permanent structure, the Padua anatomy theatre of 1594, and the 1638-39 one in Bologna. Before 1594, anatomy theatres were temporary structures, in some cases erected at the expense of the professor performing the dissection. On the tour, we usually… Continue reading Theatres of Anatomy