Venetian Midwives–Who Knew? | seductivevenice

Anatomical theater at University of Padua

At the presentation I recently made about Sarra Copia Sulam at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco, one audience member showed a remarkable knowledge of Venetian history. He approached me…

Source: Venetian Midwives–Who Knew? | seductivevenice

Not Just For Kissing: Medicinal Uses of Mistletoe (Past & Present) « The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice

Ah, December. That time of year when mistletoe springs up magically in entrance halls and doorways, driving unsuspecting individuals into an awkward embrace before they make a mad dash for the booze.

Today, we associate mistletoe with smooching; however, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the poisonous, parastic plant has a long association with medicine, and in the past would have been recognized by doctors as a vital ingredient in the treatment of various disorders.

One of the first records of mistletoe being used medicinally comes from Hippocrates (460 – 377 BC) who used the plant to treat diseases of the spleen and complaints associated with menstruation. Celsus (25 BC – 50 AD) also describes using mistletoe in the fifth book of De Medicina. He mixed it with various organic or inorganic substances to create plasters and emollients, which he then used to treat…

Source: Not Just For Kissing: Medicinal Uses of Mistletoe (Past & Present) « The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice

“The Anatomizer’s Ground” – Uncovering the history of St Olave’s, Silver Street | Flickering Lamps

The City of London is home to many curious little green spaces, gardens that today are often teeming with office workers enjoying their lunch on a sunny day. The little garden pictured below is just one of them, a small space nestled between office blocks and the busy thoroughfare of London Wall.  In the introduction to his 1901 book The Churches and Chapels of Old London, J G White notes that “the sites of old churches are very plainly indicated in most instances by little green spots, formerly church-yards, now changed into pleasant gardens and resting places.”  The subject of today’s post is the “green spot” on the site of the church of St Olave, Silver Street.

Many of the City’s churches were closed and demolished as the area’s population began to decrease in the 19th Century, and more were destroyed in the Blitz and never rebuilt.  St Olave’s was situated in a part of the Square Mile that was particularly heavily hit by aerial bombardment during the Second World War – it lies just south of London Wall and the Barbican complex, an area devastated by the Luftwaffe.  Silver Street, where William Shakespeare once lived, is no longer on London’s maps, utterly wiped out by the devastation of…

Source: “The Anatomizer’s Ground” – Uncovering the history of St Olave’s, Silver Street | Flickering Lamps

The Embalmed Soldiers of the American Civil War

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

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Thomas Holmes—the “Father of Modern Embalming”—had an unusual way of advertising his services throughout the American Civil War. During one of his many excursions to the front, the surgeon plucked the body of an unknown soldier from the battlefield and brought it back to Washington D.C. There, he washed the corpse and injected it with his patented “safe” embalming fluid, which he claimed was free from toxins. He then dressed the soldier in a fine set of clothes and put him on display in his shop window for all to see.

Prior to the mid-19th century, embalming was used chiefly to preserve specimens after dissection. Surgeons and anatomists often used arsenic when creating dry mount displays from cadaverous remains. Mixtures of arsenic and soap…

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Death is All Around Us: The Plague Pits of London

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

P8

If you walk down Victoria Street in London on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, you’ll find dozens of picnickers sitting in Christchurch Gardens. Some will be suited up in jackets and ties, clutching briefcases in one hand and local supermarket sandwiches in another. Others will be tourists taking a moment to rest their wary bones before heading down the road to visit Parliament Square or Westminster Abbey. And then there are ‘the loungers’—youths sprawled out on bed sheets, iPods blasting in their eardrums, books pushed up to their noses.

Most if not all of these people will be unaware that they are sitting atop a 17th-century plague pit.

P6‘Death is all around us’ is not just a turn of phrase. It’s an actual fact, at least for those living in London. When the bubonic plague swept through the city in 1665, over 100,000 people perished. Those more poetically inclined…

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Ten Terrifying Knives from Medical History

I’m not particularly keen on the cataract knife as I’m waiting for an operation. Mind you, I believe things have changed a little in the last 100 years or so!

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

I’m excited to announce that I’ve just finished filming the first episode of my new YouTube series, Under The Knife, and will be releasing it very soon (please subscribe to my channel for video updates). Unsurprisingly, that got me thinking about, well, knives. Here’s a list of some rather terrifying knives from our medical past.

  1. VALENTIN KNIFE, 1838. This knife was one of the few able to cut slices of organs and soft tissues for microscopic examination. The double-bladed knife worked best when the blades were wet – best of all when submerged in water. Named after its inventor, Professor Gabriel Valentin (1810-1883), a German-Swiss physiologist, the knife was invented in 1838. This example, however, dates from 1890.
  2. BISTOURY CACHÉ, c.1850. Invented in the mid-19th century, bistoury caché literally translates from the French as ‘hidden knife’. The device was used to cut internal organs or…

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