Tag Archives: Middle Ages

Medical and literary coupling

Stephen Finn South Africa   (To be read aloud, with gusto and with a strong beat) Collage created by Hektoen staff. Images from left to right. Top row: Portrait of Rabelais, circa 1820. By Louis-François Durrans. From the Rabelais Museum, via Wikimedia; Anton Chekhov, via Wikimedia. Center: Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash Bottom […]

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 […]

The Valsalva maneuver

JMS Pearce Hull, England, UK   Fig 1. Valsalva’s maneuver. Source It is a paradox that the discovery of the Valsalva maneuver did not relate to cardiovascular physiology but to the treatment of discharges from the ear. Valsalva’s maneuver is now used physiologically1 to test cardiac and autonomic function, and in several other diagnostic and […]

Wet nursing: a historical perspective

Mariella Scerri Mellieha, Malta   A Russian wet nurse, c. 1913. Painted by Frederic de Haenen public domain via Wikimedia. Wet nursing, a form of breastfeeding provided by someone other than an infant’s biological mother,1 has a long and sometimes controversial history. Death in childbirth, a mother’s illness, as well as cultural habits and circumstance […]

COVID-19 and the Black Death

Colleen Donnelly  Denver, Colorado, United States   A street during the plague in London with a death cart and mourners. Colour wood engraving by E. Evans. Wellcome Library no. 6918i. Source During the fourteenth century waves of the bubonic plague washed across Europe. Doomsday books of the age described an apocalypse that wiped out one-quarter […]

In the heart of Damascus

Kera Panni Seaside, California, United States   Propaganda in support of President Bashar al-Assad between the Citadel of Damascus and the entrance to the suq, (May 2007). Personal archives, photo taken by author Even as a child in the American suburbs, I knew my blood flowed from Syria. Relatives said my Jiddoo’s parents were farmers […]

Blood and bandages

Patricia A. Unsworth Bolton, England, United Kingdom   Photograph by the author. The notorious Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, is possibly the first thought that comes to mind at the mention of barber surgeons, but how far from reality was this character of Victorian fiction? Perhaps not so far removed as one […]

Bloody women

M.K.K. Hague-Yearl Montréal, Québec, Canada   Calendar depicting scenes relating to health. Both bloodletting scenes show a woman being bled. Bibliotheca Osleriana 7424A, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University. Source Sitting with little fanfare inside a twentieth-century red hardcover binding is a single leaf whose bibliographic record contains brackets of uncertainty: “[Calendar […]

A case of toxic blood

Shruthi Deivasigamani Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States   The Dancing Mania by Hendrick Hondius (1642). Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY On a blustery winter day, a molecule of water condenses around a particle of dust in the air. The structure grows in size as it falls closer to earth, and before it hits the ground outside, it has […]

Bloody beginnings of hematology

Sherin Jose Chockattu Bengaluru, India Bloodletting in 1860 – one of only three known photographs of the procedure. This photo is from the Burns Archive collection. Source His pole, with pewter basins hung, Black, rotten teeth in order strung, Rang’d cups that in the window stood, Lin’d with red rags, to look like blood, Did […]