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

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’