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Surgical instruments of ancient physicians. Credit: Kai Beercrafter / Adobe Stock

The Gory History of Barber Surgeons: Medieval Medicine Gone Mad

It’s no surprise that the history of medicine had a rocky and somewhat gruesome journey before reaching its current, modern state. From the earliest meddling in surgery in Classical Antiquity to the...
‘Ambroise Paré and the examination of a patient’ by James Bertrand. Source: Ji-Elle/ CC BY SA 3.0

9 Ancient Physicians and Legendary Healers that Changed Medicine Forever

Most people have heard of the eminent physician Hippocrates and his famous oath. But far fewer know of Shennong, Avicenna, and Andreas Vesalius – some of the lesser-known figures to have transformed...
A doctor performing eye surgery. The Ebers Papyrus discusses medical techniques and remedies. Source: Articles sur l’Egypte et son historie

The Ebers Papyrus: Medico-Magical Beliefs and Treatments Revealed in Ancient Egyptian Medical Text

The Ebers Papyrus is an ancient medical document that contains over 842 remedies for illnesses and injuries. It specifically focused on the heart, the respiratory system, and diabetes. The Papyrus...
Plates vi and vii of the Edwin Smith Papyrus

Edwin Smith Papyrus: 3,600-Year-Old Surgical Treatise Reveals Secrets of Ancient Egyptian Medical Knowledge

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is a medical treatise from ancient Egypt. This papyrus is named after Edwin Smith, the American collector of antiquities who purchased the papyrus. The Edwin Smith Papyrus is...
Portion of Ibn Sīna’s Canon of Medicine folded into medieval text

Irish Translation of Ibn Sīna Medical Text Discovered in Medieval Book Binding

A recent discovery is demonstrating the influence of Islamic medicine on European physicians. A fragment from a book dating from the 1400s has revealed the influence of a Muslim Persian polymath on...
‘Alexander of Macedon trusts the doctor Philip’ (1870s) by Henryk Siemiradzki. Alexander is drinking a draught prepared by his trusted physician Philip after suffering from a severe fever. Humoral theory was used to cure illnesses, from fever to cancer, in ancient Greece.

Bile, Cauterization, and Exercise: Cancer Treatment Was a Very Different Story in Ancient Greece

Cancer has existed since before the dawn of civilization. By the time of the ancient Greeks, cancer as a disease was already diagnosed by physicians, along with recommendations for its treatment. But...
Don’t look so worried Cromwell, she’s just asleep. Thomas Cromwell’s wife and daughters died of sweating sickness.

What was Sweating Sickness, the Mysterious Tudor Plague of Wolf Hall?

Derek Gatherer / The Conversation In the first episode of BBC historical drama Wolf Hall , based on Hilary Mantel’s novel of the same name, Thomas Cromwell returns home to find his wife and two...
Snake oil in Sapa.

Snake Oil Has Long Been Deemed A ‘Fake Medicine’, But It’s Not Guilty, It Really Does Cure!

In the late 19th century, microscopes enabled scientists to observe the microbial effectivity of medicines in the treatment of ailments and these new skills finally dislodged many traditional ‘...
Medieval science

The Grave That Heals: Irish Folktale Proven True as Soil from Priest’s Grave Shows Key to Fighting Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Traditionally ancient folk remedies are not treated seriously by medical researchers and professionals. However, some scientists are taking a new look at these remedies because some are believed to...
The conservation of papyrus requires above all craftsmanship, expertise and time. A specialized papyrus conservator was brought to Basel to make this 2000-year-old document legible again.

Experts Finally Decode 2000-year-old ‘Mirror Writing’ Papyrus

Since the 16th century, Basel has been home to a mysterious papyrus. With mirror writing on both sides, it has puzzled generations of researchers. A research team from the University of Basel has now...
Illustration of a monk tending to a sick patient.

The Incredible Medical Interventions of the Monks of Soutra Aisle

Soutra Aisle refers to a set of ruins in Scotland that were once part of a larger complex comprising a hospital and a friar. Excavations at Soutra Aisle have provided an extraordinary window into the...
Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718

Medical supplies found aboard the wreck of Blackbeard's flagship

Over the last few years, researchers have gained some valuable insight on what life was like aboard Blackbeard’s most famous ship. In January 2015, marine archaeologists recovered medical equipment...
A human skeleton in space.

Medical Astrology: Moon Fever and Diseases Sent from the Skies

For centuries, humans have believed that the celestial realm could influence everyday life. This is the basis of astrology. The rise and fall of kingdoms and the fortunes of individuals have all been...
‘A maid bringing medicine and soup to her master who has a cold.’ (1857)

Medicine Maidens: Why Did Women Become the Primary Medical Providers in Early Modern Households?

A primary female occupation in the early modern period (AD 1500-1800) was that of medicine. Though there were formal doctors—known by various titles and with various tasks detailed by their...
Medieval medical text

Medieval Men With ‘Unsuitable Seed’ Prescribed Ground Up Pig Testicals

A recent study of medical and religious texts suggests that men were diagnosed with infertility as far back as Medieval times, and indeed may be held responsible for the inability to have children...
Main: A diver searches the Relitto del Pozzino shipwreck (Not Only Chemistry). Inset: One of the medicinal tablets. Image via PNAS/Giachi et. al.

Scientists Learn Ingredients of 2,000-Year-Old Roman Pills Found in Ancient Shipwreck

Discoveries of ancient shipwrecks are always exciting, but a small number of them are truly unique in the artifacts they yield, offering up items from the past that have been preserved for centuries...

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