Tag Archives: 16th century

Francis Bacon’s natural philosophy and medicine

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. Novum Organum Scientiarum, 2nd edition, 1645. EC.B1328.620ib, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Lord Bacon was the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any country, ever produced. – Alexander Pope, 1741   The early seventeenth century was a time when natural philosophy, the precursor of modern […]

The painting of the Good Samaritan in Bracciano Castle

Stephen Martin Thailand   Fig. 1. The Good Samaritan, Bracciano Castle, Lazio, Italy, c. 1600–1610. Photographed by author with curator’s permission to publish in Hektoen International. The Orsini of Bracciano were one of the richest and most powerful aristocratic families in early modern Italy.1 Much of their impressive collection remains in Bracciano Castle, Lazio,2 and […]

The appendicitis conundrum

Jayant Radhakrishnan Nathaniel Koo Darien, Illinois, United States   Lorenz Heister (1683–1758) was a German surgeon and anatomist. In 1711, he described acute appendicitis in great detail and suggested that it be treated. From Institutiones chirurgicae, in quibus quicquid ad rem chirurgicam pertinet optima et novissima ratione pertractatur, Neapel, Antonio Cervone, 1749. Via Wikimedia. No […]

Love as illness: Symptomatology

Frank Gonzalez-Crussi Chicago, Illinois, United States   Figure 1. Sappho as imagined by Raphael in the fresco known as Parnassus in the Raphael rooms in the Palace of the Vatican (c. 1509–1511). She appears in a corner of the fresco, holding a scroll with her name. Via Wikimedia. Is love a disease? I mean erotic, […]

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 by 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 […]

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 […]