Tag Archives: Leprosy

Body and soul, balance and the Sibyl of the Rhine: the life and medicine of Saint Hildegard of Bingen

Mariel Tishma Chicago, Illinois, United States   Hildegard von Bingen receives divine inspiration and passes it on to her writer. Miniature from the Rupertsberger Codex des Liber Scivias. Via Wikimedia St. Hildegard of Bingen wrote two medical texts, three books of visions and prophecies, one of the first mystery plays, songs, musical compositions, and letters. […]

The men who defeated syphilis

German zoologist Fritz Schaudinn. Source Fritz Schaudinns, Verlag Leopold Voss, Hamburg und Leipzig 1911. Via Wikimedia. Beginnings The origins of syphilis have been subject to much debate. The disease has been claimed to be thousands of years old and originally to have evolved from yaws. Generally mistaken for leprosy and not recognized as a separate entity, […]

The Sorokdo National Hospital of South Korea

Lucy Eum New Brunswick, Canada   The wooden operating table used for vasectomies and sterilizations. Photo by Lucy Eum. 2012. Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, has historically been a highly stigmatized condition.1 For centuries it was thought to be a curse, a punishment for sin, or a hereditary disease.2 It was not until 1873 […]

Jack London’s cloudy crystal ball

Edward McSweegan Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   The Scarlet Plague, by Jack London. Open Library, an initiative of the Internet Archive. The COVID-19 pandemic has given quarantined readers new opportunities to discover the literature of plagues and epidemics. Many people—in order to give context to the present pandemic—have turned to books like Albert Camus’ […]

Another look at the medical problems of Jean-Paul Marat: searching for a unitary diagnosis

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   L’Assassinat de Marat / Charlotte Corday. Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry. 1860. Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Via Wikimedia. Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793) was a practicing physician, scientist, and a leader of the French Revolution. He also suffered from a chronic, intractable skin condition, which troubled the last five years of his life. A tormenting […]

Darling of Panama

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Kansas City, Kansas, United States   Samuel Taylor Darling at age 51, portrait by Underwwod & Underwood, 1923. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Samuel Taylor Darling, widely considered as the foremost American tropical parasitologist and pathologist of his time, was born in Harrison, New Jersey on April 6, 1872. […]

The scourge, the scientist, and the swindle

Anne Jacobson Oak Park, Illinois, United States   Alice Augusta Ball, 1915. (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain) “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as […]

Ladies in red: medical and metaphorical reflections on La Traviata

Milad Matta Gregory Rutecki Lyndhurst, Ohio, United States   Illustration by Jason Malmberg. “. . . phthisic beauty[’s] . . . most famous operatic embodiment was Violetta Valery . . .This physical type became not only fashionable but sexy . . . When a society does not understand—and cannot control—a disease, ground seems to open […]

Epidemics from plague to Coronavirus

Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome. From the Internet Archive’s copy of Eugen Hollände Die Karikatur und Satire in der Medizin: Medico-Kunsthistorische Studie von Professor Dr. Eugen Holländer. circa 1656. Throughout history humanity has faced many epidemics and pandemics that caused […]

“If it be a poor man”: medieval medical treatment for the rich and poor

Erin Connelly Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States   “Urine Wheel,” Almanack, Free Library of Philadelphia – The Rosenbach, MS 1004/29, fol. 9 C (York, England, 1364), courtesy of Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis. OPenn Repository Great disparities in wealth and differences in access to healthcare between the top and bottom of society are hardly new experiences in human history.1-4 […]