In the West, we trace the origins of modern medicine back to Classical Greece, but what did doctors in the Ancient World actually believe? How did the theories they developed about disease and the human body inform the practices they employed when trying to heal their patients? And how did the teachings of one group of people grow to dominate all others, shaping the course of medical thought for over two millennia?Beginning with an overview of the ancient world, Ancient Medicine traces the rise…
Your children and you is the name of a film made by the Ministry of Information in 1946 and also the title of a new BFI DVD made in partnership with the Wellcome Library with 15 films about pregnancy, birth, parenting, childhood, child development, child psychology and school days.
Your Children and You. DVD cover
This collaboration entailed curating a small selection of films from the Wellcome Library’s Moving Image and Sound Collection relating to motherhood. These titles addressed both the »
Canadian artist Howie Tsui redesigned a pinball machine to turn it into a crude simulation of a musket-ball rattling around a soldier’s guts for a War of 1812-themed exhibition currently running at the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre at Queens University in Kingston. It’s meant to demonstrate the way that repetition and concentration can inure you [...]
By Laurence Totelin One of my favourite characters in the history of ancient pharmacology is Attalus III, king of Pergamum (ruled from 138 to 133 BCE). As a king, he is remembered for bequeathing his small kingdom to Rome at … Continue reading →
By Alexi Baker, University of Cambridge
The British Board of Longitude is perhaps best known today in relation to the clock maker John Harrison and his attempts to win its reward of £20,000 (the equivalent of about £1.5 million now). However, the Board was involved in far more stories than that, and in seeking far more than just a better method of estimating the longitude coordinate at sea. For many decades, it was also a unique state-funded body for encouraging the improvement of science, expl… »
A long-standing myth about epilepsy is that it is tied to the lunar cycle, worsening during the full moon. Just Google it to see what comes up in the search… But the boundary between what we see as myth and what eighteenth-century people saw as medicine is blurry, as a quick search of the Sloane Correspondence database for epilepsy shows.
A man suffering from mental illness or epilepsy is held up in front of an altar on which is a reliquary with the face of Christ, several crippled men are al… »
A woman is guaranteed never to miscarry if, tied round her neck in gazelle leather, she wears white flesh from a hyena’s breast, seven hyena’s hairs, and the penis of a stag. (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 28.98; translation W.H.S. Jones)
My area of research is Greek and Roman recipes. This may seem a rather dry topic, but since much of the material I study is as colourful as the amulet-recipe I have chosen to open this blog-post, I enjoy myself quite a lot. That is not to say that ancient … »
The Wellcome Unit for the History Medicine, University of Oxford is pleased to announce the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology Postgraduate Conference 2013
Science and Society will take place on 7 June 2013 at 10:00-17:00 at the History Faculty Lecture Theatre, George Street, Oxford
Science and society have been codependently constructed. The Wellcome Unit’s annual postgraduate conference seeks to explore these conceptual intersection points through panels ranging in subject matter f… »
Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship at the history department of Kings College London, working in collaboration with the National Horse Racing Museum, Newmarket. This exciting opportunity (which is in addition to the PhD studentships already advertised at Kings College) brings together the history of science, the history of animals, and their representation within a museum setting. The successful student will develop a novel historical perspective on the Thoroughbred racehors… »
The Oral History of British Science team is pleased to announce that a further six extracts from video interviews have been added to the British Library YouTube Channel at
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAFE166FF9369ACE5 taking the total to 14. Newly uploaded interviews are:
Eric Wolff talking about how cores of ice drilled from Antarctica and Greenland are used to determine climate changes (and other changes) over the past 800,000 years
Carole Williams discussing her experiences as the »
In the 1930s and 1940s tanned skin, once looked upon as a sign of low class, became a mark of leisure and good health. A sunbathing craze emerged and fueled demand for products to help achieve glowing tans while avoiding painful sunburns.
Celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the climbing of Everest have a strong science and technology theme. It’s important not to forget the small or everyday things too, because in this environment even the simplest technology – like a razor – can be crucial
For the want of a nail the shoe was lost For the want of the shoe the horse was lost For the want of the horse the rider was lost For the want of the rider the message was lost For the want of the message the battle was lost For the want of »
A review of The West Riding Lunatic Asylum and the Making of the Modern Brain Sciences in the Nineteenth Century, by Michael Anthony Finn.
“We are all phrenologists today,” observed James Crichton-Browne (1840-1938) in 1924 in his monograph The Story of the Brain. “We have come to accept all the cardinal principles upon which the phrenologists insisted” (p. 199). It was an extraordinary remark made by an extraordinary man – one whose long life spanned an equally extraordinary century of discove… »
Angelique du Coudray’s fabric womb – "Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray (c. 1712–1794) was an influential, pioneering midwife. In 1759 the king commissioned her to teach midwifery to Uncategorized Angelique du Coudray, France, Medicine, Midwife, Womb 1700s
Weill Cornell Medical Center under construction. Photograph by Sigurd Fischer, c. 1932.
Medical Center Archives of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell is pleased to become a contributor to the Medical Heritage Library. A digitization micro-grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) has funded the digitization of historical annual reports from both the New York Hospital and the Lying-in Hospital of the City of New York, as well as announcements from the Weill Cornell Medical Co… »
I’m going to a workshop next week. It’s called ‘HumSci’, and it’s about the connections between the sciences and the humanities. But we’re not going to look at how people in the humanities can study science, or how scientists can … Continue reading →
With 2 months to go until the start of the International Congress, Alexander Hall and James Sumner let us know what’s in store for attendees at the biggest history of science event of the year:
Download (PDF, 1.39MB)
Stonework for the Wellcome Research Institute building, 1931.
Following on from our earlier announcement about the Wellcome Collection Development Project, we can now give you more details about the works which will be taking place from 20 June.
We’ll have to make some changes to our opening hours and services during the building works which will run September 2014. We’ll be doing everything we can to keep you informed of the changes and assist you in making the best use of your time on your Li… »
By Rebecca Laroche, with Hillary Nunn
In recent months, as part of our continuing exploration of the unique and marvelous manuscript at the College of Physicians, Hillary Nunn and I have been examining the nature of sources as they are or are not delineated in the collection. Whether divine (12/03/2013) or noble (09/04/2013) in origin, each recipe has revealed something about the nature of the overall collection at the same time it makes connections to other manuscripts in other repositories. T… »
By Glennda Bayron
A rachitic skeleton, measuring two feet two inches in length (1749). Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
In Mrs. Jane Baber’s cookbook (Wellcome MS 108), there is a medicinal recipe “For the Ricketts” tucked between a recipe to treat rheumy eyes and another for preserving raspberries. For many of the medicinal recipes in early modern receipt books, there is often no clear modern disease correlation, but rickets has again recently started to become more common in the western wo… »
A growing number of psychiatrists suspect mental conditions are ‘culture-bound syndromes’ rather than exclusively biological
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM 5 – was published over the weekend. Produced by the American Psychiatric Association, it describes the symptoms of a vast range of mental illnesses and is intended as a guide to diagnosis.
Why should we in the UK care? Simple: the political dominance of the US means that as soon as a men… »
Over the past few months, as I learned more and more about the use of quicksilver in eighteenth-century chemistry and medicine, I became increasingly curious about the origins of all this mercury. The chemistry of the eighteenth century was a science of materials, materials that allowed various ways of inquiry: descriptions were made, technological possibilities explored and philosophical reasoning applied. However, we should not forget that in early classical chemistry, all chemical substances… »
By Martin Mahony, University of East Anglia
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 with the aim of delivering top-quality scientific assessments of climate change, its impacts on human societies, and potential political responses. So far, four assessment reports have been produced which have arguably been central to driving climate change up the political agenda. With steadily increasing levels of surety, the physical reality of the greenhouse effect and of… »
Browne sought to partner empirical observation with his Anglican faith, yet we can also learn from the one time he failed to do so
One of the major weaknesses of the "new atheism" is that it sometimes fails to understand the lived experience of quiet, happy faith. It is also baffled by the fact that intelligent people, with scientific and scholarly interests, have lived their life without religious doubts, content with what they were taught. The 17th-century writer and mystic Thomas Browne is f… »
Traditional Thai medicine is a holistic discipline involving extensive use of indigenous herbal and massage/pressure treatment combined with aspects of spirituality and mental wellbeing. Having been influenced by Indian and Chinese concepts of healing, traditional Thai medicine understands disease not as a physical matter alone, but also as an imbalance…
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [The equation in question is at bottom-left; full explanation here.] I came across an article while researching a work by H.P. Robertson–Lectures on Relativity (Princeton 1935)–and it is much more interesting than what I…
By Sarah Marks
These images were produced by experimental subjects taking part in the ‘Experimental Psychosis’ project at the Prague Psychiatric Research Institute in the late 1950s and 1960s. The research programme, headed by psychiatrist Miloš Vojtěchovský, involved EEG monitoring and the analysis of creative graphic output (paintings, charcoal and ink drawings, among others) of healthy individuals under the influence of a variety of psychotropic drugs (including psilocybin, mescaline, adre… »
Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (Wikimedia Commons)
Nearly sixty years ago — on May 29, 1953 — Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay, became the first humans that we know of to have reached the summit of Mount Everest.
Their accomplishment was a feat not just of physical prowess, but of procedure. Climbing Everest, then as now, was as much a design problem as anything else: Which path could lead humans safely to the summit? Hillary and Norgay, ultimately, summit… »
The conversation about the pros and cons of preserving organs in fluid barely falters as a curator slides into the laboratory at London’s Hunterian Museum brandishing a bone in a jar. “I’ve brought you a leg,” she says, depositing it on a bench
There are still some pretty annoying things about being left-handed. But in America, at least, we’ve mostly stopped forcing lefties to learn to use their right hand. That’s not the case everywhere, though. China, for example, claims that less than one percent of students are left-handed. If that were true, it would be strange: the global average of lefties comes in at 10-12 percent. A study in the journal Endeavor recently took on this question: Why are there no left-handers in Ch… »
There’s been a little radio silence over here last week; the truth is, I’ve been very absorbed in NUKEMAP-related work. It is going very well; I’ve found some things that I thought were going to be difficult to be not so difficult, after all, and I’ve found myself to be more mathematically capable than I usually would presume, once I really started drilling down in technical minutiae. The only down-side of the work is that it is mostly coding, mostly technical, not terribly conducive to having … »
A late eighteenth-century “birthing phantom.” Unlike Smellie’s machine, these were not intended to be exactly like the living body, but rather a basic replica allowing midwives to understand the position of the child in the birth canal. By permission of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum
The eighteenth century was an age of mechanization, from Cartesian conceptions of animals as machines to nerve theory and early experiments in electricity. Mechanists argued that interaction among … »
In 1621 Robert Burton first published his masterpiece The Anatomy of Melancholy, a vast feat of scholarship examining in encyclopaedic detail that most enigmatic of maladies. Noga Arikha explores the book, said to be the favorite of both Samuel Johnson and Keats, and places it within the context of the humoural theory so popular at the time. Robert Burton might well have loved the Internet. His Anatomy of Melancholy, whose first of six editions published during the Oxford clergyman’s lifetime a… »
By Elizabeth Reis The Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Informed Choice have filed a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), Greenville Hospital System, the Medical University of South Carolina, and several medical personnel for allowing physicians to remove the atypical genitals of a 16-month-old toddler because that child, in the state’s custody at the time, was born with an intersex condition. M.C. had been identified male at birth, but his genit… »
Title page of “Murdered Millions.”
Murdered Millions (1897), by George Dowknott, M.D., is a brief treatise relating to Christian medical missions. In less than one hundred pages, Dowknott seeks to establish a complex theory of ‘murder’ based largely on Biblical interpretation, apply it to the work being done, or being neglected, in mission fields around the world, and suggest remedies.
Dowknott was associated with the International Missionary Society and the Medical Missionary Society at the end »
The Archives for Women in Medicine is pleased to announce our 2013-2014 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellow: Ciara Breathnach, Ph.D.
Dr. Ciara Breathnach
Dr. Breathnach is a Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Limerick, Ireland, and has published on Irish socio-economic and health histories in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Breathnach’s research focuses on how the poor experienced, engaged with and negotiated medical services in Ireland and in »