Tag: History of Medicine

Medieval Bodies, Head to Toe

The skeletal diagram in Mansur ibn Ilyas’s fifteenth-century medical text, the Tashrih-i badan-i insan, looks at first glance like it’s been drawn by someone who’s never seen a human body before. The skull is oddly triangular, the jawbone tapering to a sharp point and perched on an over-elongated neck. The script-like scalloping of the clavicle… Read more →

Anoint an Aries with Sheep’s Blood: Finding the Familiar in the Astral Medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia

From so far in the future, the medicine of ancient Mesopotamia looks strange. After all, it’s easy to dismiss the therapeutic use of an eagle’s head as not even qualifying as medicine. One unique and perhaps unexpected way in which Mesopotamian medicine differed from our conceptions of medicine is in its use of astrology. We… Read more →

Witness to Pain: The Migraine Art Collection

“Good morning Katherine, I just wanted to let you know that we have located the Migraine Art.” For four years, as I worked on the history of migraine, I had periodically been in touch with the team at Migraine Action, a UK-based advocacy charity for people with migraine.1 Globally, migraine affects around one in seven… Read more →

Quacks, Alternative Medicine, and the U.S. Army in the First World War

During the First World War, the Surgeon General received numerous pitches for miraculous cures for sick and wounded American soldiers. Ranging from anti-sea sickness remedies to complex elixirs for treating diseases like tuberculosis and venereal disease, America’s “quack” and non-traditional medical practitioners sought a seat at the table. Serving as a barrier between established medical… Read more →

“Remember—Don’t Drill a Hole in Your Head”: A Review of The Sawbones Book

The Sawbones Book: The Horrifying, Hilarious Road to Modern Medicine is an adaptation of a Maximum Fun Network podcast, Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. I reviewed the podcast for my own blog back in 2014, so I’ll keep the synopsis here short: Justin McElroy and Dr. Sydnee McElroy are married. She’s a doctor…. Read more →

The Politics of Sobreparto: Beyond the Medical Dimensions of a Postpartum Condition

Migrant indigenous Andean women living in the lowland Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra often mention sobreparto (“following birth”) among the dangerous consequences of pregnancy. This condition occurs after delivery and manifests with cold chills, fever, and general weakness. If it’s left untreated, it can even lead to death. Some of the most… Read more →

VD in the Archives

For something that played such a prevalent role in life at the front, sex and venereal disease (or VD) have been largely underrepresented thus far in the public remembrance of the centenary of the First World War. In 1916, one in five of all admissions of British and Allied troops to hospitals in France and… Read more →

Mothers’ Natures: Sex, Love, and Degeneration in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Every so often, some viral article or other will declare that science “proves” or “confirms” that intelligence is inherited from mothers. (I know, because my own mother will promptly share it on Facebook.) Swiftly, of course, revisionary articles will appear correcting or debunking this claim, chastising armchair geneticists for their overly-simplistic understandings of the X-chromosome…. Read more →

Face to Face with Sharrona Pearl

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sharrona Pearl about her new book, Face/On: Transplants and the Ethics of the Other. Below are excerpts from our conversation, which ranged from disability, to artistry, to parenting, to sex transitions, all illuminated by Sharrona’s insights from the history and culture of face transplants. Lara: I really… Read more →

Imagining Sex Change in Early Modern Europe

Once a historical mind starts thinking about the ways sex intersects with the histories of medicine, it’s almost more difficult to divorce the two. Sex itself is physiological, psychological, and, historically, subject to a range of medical scrutiny. The histories of some particular realms of medicine are equally and obviously inextricable from sex – from… Read more →