Posts tagged society

Bone saws from the 17th and 18th centuries

Bone saws were some of the most commonly-used medical instruments during the Renaissance, as amputation was one of the most common surgical procedures performed.

Unfortunately for the patients, just like so much else during the 17th and 18th centuries, style and status was a huge thing for the surgeons, like so many other elites in society. Since the surgeries were often performed in surgical theaters, a great way for surgeons to show off their status was with ornately decorated surgical instruments - and the bone saws were often the most ornate of all.

Aside from being uncomfortable to hold, the gilt or carved cedar or ebony handles, and the ornately-embellished frames, were perfect places for bacteria to fester, and to transfer from patient-to-patient. The more elite the surgeon, the fancier the saw - and the deadlier the consequences.

Models located at Science Museum London, originally created ca. 1650-1780.

The Decorative Home Apiary
"How doth the little busy bee,   improve each shining hour;Gathering honey all the day,   From ev’ry opening flower.”
"Mama, mama! Rufus is eating uncle’s bees!"
The American Bee Keeper’s Manual. T. B. Miner, 1849.

The Decorative Home Apiary

"How doth the little busy bee,
   improve each shining hour;
Gathering honey all the day,
   From ev’ry opening flower.”

"Mama, mama! Rufus is eating uncle’s bees!"

The American Bee Keeper’s Manual. T. B. Miner, 1849.

Medieval Cures: Ensuring a healthy baby

Assuming your infant survives pregnancy and childbirth (uncommon enough as it was), you must keep the evil spirits and demons away. These demons snatch the youth from this world, and wandered the earth night and day, looking for unprotected children.

To deter the evil spirits and demonic beings:

  • Rabbit’s foot: Though any hind foot of a rabbit would do, the foot of a rabbit caught by a cross-eyed man was stronger against evil. Tie this foot around the baby’s neck with a leather thong. If the baby chews on it or sucks on it enough during teething that it’s destroyed, immediately replace, as they are very vulnerable during that stage of their life. **Though rabbit’s feet are still lucky for royalty, they are not considered helpful in infancy. Unsure why.
  • Bathe infant in the water most recently used to cleanse the pots after a meal including a stew with fatty meat: Most important in the newborn baby. Once baby is walking, bathing is unneeded, but before then, ensure all bathwater is that which has already been used in washing food-containing pots.

Medicine in History: Ancient Egypt

As one of the oldest civilizations with written language and significant volumes of preserved texts, ancient Egypt is also the first civilization that has been found to have concrete records of medical professionals (who were, for the most part, not holy men). The Egyptians also had a fair understanding of what was inside the body, and how everything was connected.

Though magic and superstition played a role in Egyptian medicine, herbal remedies, massage therapy, and dietary recommendations were also used and recorded. The physicians in Egypt were far from the witch doctors of primitive tribes; even the ones who specialized in the more superstitious and magical aspects of medicine were generally well-educated and observant, and knew when a physician specialized in something else could better help a patient. 

Much of our knowledge of ancient Egyptian medicine is gleaned from a few major papyri, though there’s evidence of it written and illustrated in many other places. The most significant papyri were:

  • Ebers Papyrus - Original manuscript written approximately 1600 BCE, during the Pyramid Age. A roll of papyrus 20.23 meters long and 30 cm high, with 877 spells and recipes covering a large number of ailments. Only 12 cases recommend spells; the rest are therapeutics that are not irrational (though not all of them would’ve been effectual). Includes recitals to be used prior to treatment, to increase the virtue of the remedy. Also one of the few papyri that includes surgical interventions - most Egyptian medicine did not involve surgery beyond the setting of broken bones.
  • Edwin Smith Papyrus - A much shorter papyrus, consisting of case studies and examples (including anatomical descriptions) instead of cures and remedies. Each of the 48 cases lists: 1. Title 2. Examination 3. Diagnosis 4. Treatment (if the case was to be treated) 5. Glosses (a small dictionary of obscure terms that may have been used in the case - a surgeon near the end of the Old Kingdom had the idea that the papyrus would be more useful if cases were described in more contemporary terms).

The Smith papyrus introduced the concept of "An ailment I will treat", "An ailment with which I will contend", and ”An ailment not to be treated”. This system of a verdict based upon the diagnosis is so ingrained into medicine today that it seems crazy that there was a time where it wasn’t standard practice, doesn’t it?

    The Greeks also recorded (and apparently admired) much of how ancient Egyptian medicine was performed. In the Odessey, Homer wrote:

    In Egypt, the men are more skilled in medicine than any of human kind.

    When Herodotus visited Egypt in the 5th century, he was similarly impressed, and mentioned in his Histories:

    The practice of medicine is very specialized among them. Each physician treats just one disease. The country is full of physicians, some treat the eye, some the teeth, some of what belongs to the abdomen, and others internal diseases.

    From what historians have learned about Egyptian medical practices, it’s pretty clear that though the ancient Greeks have long been considered the originators of medicine as a practice (separated from religion), the majority of their early knowledge was gleaned from the Egyptians, and it was not until near the end of the ancient Grecian society that truly new information was being recorded.

    Sources:

    Medicine in Old Egypt

    Über die anatomischen Kenntnisse der alten Ägypter. H. Grapow, 1935 

    The Proceedings of the 10th Annual History of Medicine Days: University of Calgary [PDF]

    thewidowflannigan:

Also known as a “bragging scar” or renommierschmiss, these were not cute little nicks from a slender épée or foil. So-called “academic” dueling in European universities was, at the time, done with much heavier sabres. the scars were so coveted that in these duels it was considered more honorable to be the one to prove you could stand there and take the blow than to be the one delivering it. SS officer Otto Skorzeny was well known for his renommierschmiss, helping give rise to the popular pulp image of the sinister scar-faced Nazi.
tuesday-johnson:

ca. 1908, “German Dueling Society, Purposefully Cutting Face”

In Austria and Germany during the early 20th century, young men studying to be doctors of lawyers would join societies famous for brutal “duels” in which the goal was to be wounded as to secure the mark of the social elite. The dueling scar was a symbol of courage, manliness, and perhaps most important, high class…

via Newsweek from the Burns Archive

    thewidowflannigan:

    Also known as a “bragging scar” or renommierschmiss, these were not cute little nicks from a slender épée or foil. So-called “academic” dueling in European universities was, at the time, done with much heavier sabres. the scars were so coveted that in these duels it was considered more honorable to be the one to prove you could stand there and take the blow than to be the one delivering it. SS officer Otto Skorzeny was well known for his renommierschmiss, helping give rise to the popular pulp image of the sinister scar-faced Nazi.

    tuesday-johnson:

    ca. 1908, “German Dueling Society, Purposefully Cutting Face”

    In Austria and Germany during the early 20th century, young men studying to be doctors of lawyers would join societies famous for brutal “duels” in which the goal was to be wounded as to secure the mark of the social elite. The dueling scar was a symbol of courage, manliness, and perhaps most important, high class…

    via Newsweek from the Burns Archive