Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Renaissance

  • Dear brainstem, you remind me of the Mona Lisa

    Serena YueHong Kong, China Dear brainstem, You remind me of the Mona Lisa, seated firmly and comfortably atop the spinal cord. The Mona Lisa exudes royalty and class, from her posture and garments to the plump smoothness of her hands. Your elegance also enthralls me, from the sleek medulla oblongata, ascending to the pons with…

  • A tale of three doctors

    Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Early print of an execution by guillotine, as proposed by Dr. Guillotin. Jean-François Janinet, c. 1789–1791. Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris via Wikimedia. Public domain. “How true it is that it is difficult to benefit mankind without some unpleasantness resulting for oneself.” – Dr. Edme-Claude Bourru, giving Dr. Guillotin’s eulogy…

  • The painting of the Good Samaritan in Bracciano Castle

    Stephen MartinThailand 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 includes an early painting of the Good Samaritan described by Saint Luke. It is unusual in style and dates from about 1570 to 1630,…

  • What makes a polymath, a genius, or a man who knows everything?

    JMS PearceHull, England, United Kingdom The question posed in this title is of course imponderable and ridiculous, but nevertheless fascinating. Until the Enlightenment (c. 1750–1800), an intellectual “Renaissance man” could have read most of the important books printed. He might well have known most of the medical, scientific, and mathematical facts of the day, and…

  • The wayward Paracelsus

    JMS Pearce East Yorks, England   Fig 1. Aureolus Philippus Theophrastus von Hohenheim (Paracelsus). Via Wikimedia. Alterius non sit qui suus esse potest Let no man be another’s who can be himself Paracelsus 1552   Paracelsus was the most original, controversial character of the Renaissance,1 who brazenly questioned and condemned the dictates of Galen and…

  • Girolamo Cardano: Renaissance physician and polymath

    Born at Pavia in the duchy of Lombardy in 1501, Girolamo Cardano practiced medicine for fifty years but is remembered chiefly as a polymath. He composed 200 works, made important contributions to mathematics and algebra, invented several mechanical devices (some still in use today), and published extensive philosophical tracts and commentaries on the ancient philosophers…

  • Ghirlandaio, humanism, and truth: The portrait of an elderly man and young boy

    Vincent P. de LuiseNew Haven, Connecticut, United States “. . . There is no more human a picture in the entire rangeof Quattrocento painting, whether in or out of Italy . . .”– Bernard Berenson Among the defining characteristics of the Renaissance were humanism and naturalism. While many Renaissance paintings and sculptures were depictions of…

  • Faith and patron saints during the Black Death

    Mariella ScerriMellieha, Malta The Black Death of 1348 was the greatest biomedical disaster in European history. Although it was not the first plague epidemic, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing millions indiscriminately and affecting society like no other natural calamity.1 Attempts to understand the plague began with science, but the search for answers was…

  • Science versus religion: The medieval disenchantment

    JMS PearceHull, England 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 divine being. Christianity had replaced the paganism and barbarism of earlier centuries. Most experiences not explained by religious creed were attributed to mysterious forces of enchantment. The gradual…

  • Trying to conceive: Royal fertility issues in Renaissance times

    Julius BonelloPeoria, Illinois, United States Dynasties beget legacies. An enduring legacy is important to all great leaders. However, dynasties need time—time to accomplish major national objectives or memorable feats. Today that is why our elected officials, to pass on a lasting legacy, spend much of their time campaigning for their next election. In ancient and…