Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Middle Ages

  • Medicine and the Jews in the Middle Ages

    Shelley GrachChicago, Illinois, United States In the Middle Ages, fear and superstition often stood in the path of helping the sick, as maladies were believed to result from the sins of the afflicted. These roadblocks were compounded by inherited hostility towards Jews, impeding Jewish participation in scientific education at educational institutions. The University of Montpellier…

  • Can headless martyrs really walk? The belief in cephalophores in the Middle Ages

    Andrew WodrichWashington, DC “By the temple of Mercury, [he was] beheaded with [an] axe. And anon the body of St. Denis raised himself up, and bare his head between his arms, as the angel led him two leagues … unto the place where he now resteth, by his election, and by the purveyance of God.”1…

  • Middle Ages, Middlemarch, and the mid-twentieth century: Idealism at risk

    William MarshallTucson, AZ The dissatisfaction with modern medicine felt by both patients and doctors occurs despite unprecedented advances and successes in disease treatment and prevention. Corporate Medicine (huge healthcare conglomerates that control much of medical care) and Big Pharma (giant research, development, and sales entities) are understood as prime exemplars of monopolistic greed. Income disparity…

  • Going berserk

    Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Berserk: frenzied, furiously, or madly violent. – Oxford English Dictionary   Imaginative drawing of a berserker in a fur loincloth. From Den Skandinavska Nordens Historia (The Scandinavian North’s History) by Gustaf Henrik Mellin, published 1850. The British Library on Flickr via Norwegian Wikipedia. No known copyright restrictions. The word berserkr…

  • Book review: Medicine in the Middle Ages

    Arpan K. BanerjeeSolihull, United Kingdom 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 unstable nation-states led by kings and nobility. Tribalism was rife, and…

  • Essential tremor in a medieval scribe: Extracting hidden historical knowledge from the work of the Tremulous Hand

    Andrew WodrichWashington DC, United States Introduction In the Middle Ages, before the ubiquity of the printing press, the act of writing and preserving the knowledge of Western Europe was promulgated primarily by monastic scribes.1 These scribes spent hours toiling away in dark rooms copying, translating, and authoring almost all of the written knowledge of their…

  • 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 PearceHull, 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 as Audrey,…

  • 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 ScerriMellieha, Malta 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 have all been reasons across civilizations to employ a surrogate to feed a newborn.2 In elite households, “nurses…