Tag Archives: 16th century

The Queen’s quickening: the phantom pregnancies of Mary I

Eve Elliot Dublin, Ireland   Portrait of Queen Mary I of England by Anthonis Mor, 1554. Prado Museum, Madrid Spain. Via Wikimedia. Public Domain. In November 1554, the people of England believed a miracle had taken place. Resplendent on her new throne, Queen Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII, proudly revealed that she was with […]

Book Review: Medicine in the Middle Ages

Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover of Medicine in the Middle Ages. Juliana Cummings. In the history of Western Europe, the Middle Ages refers to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century through the beginning of the Renaissance in the 1500s. These thousand years were characterized by […]

Depiction of defecation in the works of Pieter Bruegel

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Two behinds out the same window. Detail from Netherlandish Proverbs (The Blue Cloak). Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 1559. Gemäldegalerie. Via Wikimedia. “Civilization rests upon two things – the discovery that fermentation produces alcohol, and the voluntary ability to inhibit defecation.” —Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels The life of the peasant […]

Handmaidens of anatomy

Elisabeth Brander St. Louis, Missouri, United States   Fig. 1 Frontispiece of De humani corporis fabrica. Andreas Vesalius. De humani corporis fabrica. Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1543. Image Credit: Bernard Becker Medical Library. Some of the most well-known images in the history of anatomy are the woodcut écorché figures that appear in Andreas Vesalius’s De humani […]

A very Victorian drug

Anita Cooke New Brunswick, Canada   Elizabeth Siddal Plaiting her Hair by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Tate Gallery London. Date unknown. Photo © Tate. CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0. On February 14, 1862, the Daily News reported the “Death of a Lady from an Overdose of Laudanum.”1 Four nights earlier, Dante Gabriel Rossetti had discovered his wife, Lizzie, in […]

John Caius, the polymath who described the sweating sickness

Philip Liebson Chicago, Illinois, United States   John Caius (1510-1573), Master of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. 1563. Unknown painter. Credit: Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge. Imagine being a physician in a rural community in England in the mid-sixteenth century, always concerned with the reappearance of the Black Death. Late one summer you […]

St. Audrey Etheldrida

JMS Pearce Hull, England, UK   Medicine is full of strange tales, some with unforeseen ramifications. I recently discovered that the origins of the useful word “tawdry” surprisingly lay in a tumor of the throat—nature unspecified—of a seventh-century saint. St. Audrey, Etheldrida, or Æþelðryþ, born c. 636 AD, was an English princess generally referred to […]

Science versus religion: the medieval disenchantment

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. An engraving showing a monopod or sclapod, a female Cyclops, conjoined twins, a blemmye, and a cynocephali. By Sebastian Münster 1544. Source History is a novel whose author is the people. -Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863)   In medieval times, knowledge, beliefs, and faith were largely centered upon a […]

Blood is NOT the essence of life?

Mair Zamir London, Ontario, Canada   Figure 1: Vasculature of the human heart in an anterior view (right) and posterior view (left). This massive vascular network brings blood to within reach of every cell within the heart tissue. It is the most densely packed vascular network within the body because of the very high metabolic […]