Galen, magic, museums and collections

Catch! Attacking your enemy with words as well as weapons

A few years ago, I saw images of an object that was new to me twice, in as many days. It was this pictured lead sling-shot from the fourth century BC, found in Athens and now in the collections of the British Museum (object reference no. 1851,0507.11). The first time the image was circulated on… Continue reading Catch! Attacking your enemy with words as well as weapons

death, medical instruments, midwives, museums and collections

The mummy returns

      Have you seen the Egyptian mummies in the British Museum? Even if you’ve never been to London, you may have caught the travelling exhibition, ‘Mummy: The Inside Story’, which focuses on the priest Nesperennub, and has so far been seen by nearly 2 million people. Mummies are endlessly fascinating. They give nightmares… Continue reading The mummy returns

doctors, Galen, museums and collections

The dangers of libraries…

Galen was, to put it politely, a bit of a show-off. Since our main source for Galen is Galen himself, this can make it difficult to work out whether he was as great a physician as he makes out. I think the answer has to be that he was; his second-century AD career, started among… Continue reading The dangers of libraries…

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

museums and collections

Automata in history

  Do you ever feel your dining table needs cheering up? When I was working in Vienna, I saw a collection of possibly the last word in ways to impress your dinner guests. I was at the wonderful Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna where the Kunstkammer – a selection from the amazing ‘cabinet of curiosities’ assembled… Continue reading Automata in history