Medical Knowledge and the Manual Production of Casebook-Based Handbooks

In the 1850s, a physician at St. Bartholomew Hospital in London struggling with an unclear case of fever with affection of the bowels might have wanted to find information about the patient’s prognosis or an alternative medical treatment. Likewise, a medical student preparing a case for presentation to the hospital society, might have wanted further information about typhus fever, namely, its course, average prognosis, possible complications, and treatment. Both doctor and student would probably visit the library of the hospital’s “Medical College” to find comparable cases and case reports in voluminous bound casebooks. Continue reading “Medical Knowledge and the Manual Production of Casebook-Based Handbooks”

Mental Disorders, Collective Observation, and the International Classification of Diseases

Over four decades ago, the distinguished epidemiological psychiatrist Norman Sartorius wrote, “the history of psychiatric classification is in fact a history of psychiatry.”[1] During the 1960s and 1970s, Sartorius had been at the center of research by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the international classification and prevalence of mental disorders. During that era, the organization significantly transformed its classificatory manual, the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), releasing the ICD–9 in 1977. The ICD is the standard international manual for recording mortality and morbidity data for insurance and epidemiological purposes. WHO is currently in the final stages of completing its latest update to the text, ICD–11. Continue reading “Mental Disorders, Collective Observation, and the International Classification of Diseases”

Selecting and Organizing Recipes in Late Antique and Early Byzantine Compendia of Medicine and Alchemy

Ancient recipes are usually short texts; one can easily find more than one recipe written on a single papyrus sheet or on the page of a Byzantine manuscript. Despite their brevity, however, they open an invaluable window onto a wide array of techniques and practices used to manipulate the natural world. Ancient recipes could pertain to various fields of science and technology—from cosmetics to cookery, from agriculture to horse care. In this post, particular attention will be devoted to two contiguous and, to a certain extent, overlapping areas of expertise: medicine and alchemy. As we will see, the works of two important authors, Oribasius and Zosimus of Panopolis, reveal the ways that recipe collections forged new forms of knowledge transfer in the fourth century CE. Continue reading “Selecting and Organizing Recipes in Late Antique and Early Byzantine Compendia of Medicine and Alchemy”

Customizing How-To in Early Modern England

The early modern household was a bustling site for a range of medical activities from self-diagnosis and medication to nursing and caring for the sick to drug production. To further their knowledge about medicine and the body, householders accessed a wide variety of sources. Many turned to their family and friends for health-related advice, consulted medical practitioners of various sorts, and avidly read the abundance of printed medical books offered by contemporary book producers. By the mid-seventeenth century, the bookshops near St. Paul’s in London were stocking an astonishing array of English medical books. Readers could pick and choose from an assortment of herbals, pharmacopoeias, general medical guides, surgical handbooks, midwifery manuals, regimens, medical recipe books, and more.[1] These texts were eagerly consulted by householders, who utilized the knowledge contained therein not only for their home-based medical activities but also as a way to inform their decisions as actors in medical encounters with practitioners of all sorts. Continue reading “Customizing How-To in Early Modern England”

Histories of Knowledge around the Web

Monk leading stubborn donkey while reading book
“Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties” by Wordsworth Thompson (Boston, MA: L. Prang & Co., 1878), Library of Congress, PPOC, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016649779/.

Ten Links

  1. “Teaching Soviet Children the Language of Science and Technology” by Laura Todd at The Language of ‘Authoritarian’ Regimes, June 28, 2017
  2. “What We Can Learn from Fake News” by Paul J. Croce at the History News Network, July 23, 2017
  3. “How African American Activists are Influencing Latinos” by Aaron Fountain at Black Perspectives, July 25, 2017
  4. “An African American Pioneer in Greece: John Wesley Gilbert and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1890–1891” by John W. I. Lee at From the Archivist’s Notebook, August 1, 2017
  5. “The Forgotten World of Communist Bookstores” by Joshua Clarke Davis at Jacobin, August 11, 2017
  6. “The Significance of Scripts” by Elisabeth Chaghafi at Shakespeare’s World, August 24, 2017
  7. “The Racist Roots of Gynecology and What Black Women Birthed” by Sherronda J. Brown at Wear Your Voice, August 29, 2017
  8. “(In)Forming Revolution Series: Information Networks in the Age of Revolutions” at Age of Revolutions, September 4–29, 2017
  9. “How to Become a Doctor (in 1949)” by Allison Piazza at Books, Health, and History (New York Academy of Medicine), September 5, 2017
  10. “Race, Law & Literature—A New Course” by Eddie Bruce-Jones on his eponymously named blog, September 10, 2017