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’

Galen, midwives, museums and collections

Medical instruments as bling?

If you freeze at the sight of a medical instrument... .. you are not alone! Historically, physicians have tried various methods to reduce the fear induced in the patient by seeing what is coming their way. For women, possibly the most scary of all is the obstetrics forceps; if there was ever an instrument to strike terror… Continue reading Medical instruments as bling?

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