Medicine and Science

Medicinal Compounds, Efficacious in Every Case

by Lisa Smith January 30, 2013
Medicinal Compounds, Efficacious in Every Case

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor Perhaps the most famous cure-all of all time is Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, immortalized in song as “Lily the Pink” (or “The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham”).* Although the original vegetable compound aimed to treat women’s ailments, the song suggests—tongue in cheek–that it might have much wider, rather miraculous applications. […]

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Mr. President, a Visitor Is Here to See You

by JackEl-Hai January 9, 2013
Mr. President, a Visitor Is Here to See You

by Jack El-Hai, Wonders & Marvels contributor Thousands of people will soon arrive in Washington, D.C., for President Obama’s inauguration. Who are the people who visit the nation’s capital to see the Chief Executive? For the past 70 years, researchers have wondered about the psychiatric makeup of the President’s visitors — especially those visitors who […]

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12 Days: On the Trail of a Lobotomist

by JackEl-Hai December 11, 2012
12 Days: On the Trail of a Lobotomist

by Jack El-Hai (Wonders & Marvels contributor) Like many of my literary quests, my book The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness began by chance and took a long time to complete. Back in 1996 I was the author of a single book about the collections […]

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12 Days: The Greatest Voice of Her Age

by Mary Sharratt December 11, 2012
12 Days:  The Greatest Voice of Her Age

By Mary Sharratt (W&M Contributor) Born in the Rhineland in present day Germany, Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) was a visionary abbess and polymath, a Renaissance women before the Renaissance. She composed an entire corpus of sacred music and wrote nine books on subjects as diverse as theology, cosmology, botany, medicine, linguistics, and human sexuality, a […]

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The Censorship of Titicut Follies

by JackEl-Hai November 9, 2012
The Censorship of Titicut Follies

by Jack El-Hai, Wonders & Marvels contributor Disturbing images fill the screen: a man confesses to sexually abusing his daughter, guards taunt a mental patient until he screams, a physician thrusts a grimy tube down a man’s throat for a force-feeding. These are some of the unforgettable scenes in Titicut Follies, a documentary by Frederick Wiseman that […]

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A Botanist, a Butcher and a Body: Encountering an Eighteenth-Century Vrykolakas

by Lisa Smith October 30, 2012
A Botanist, a Butcher and a Body: Encountering an Eighteenth-Century Vrykolakas

By Lisa Smith, W&M Contributor From 1700-1702, French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort journeyed through the Greek islands and Constantinople. The following tale is his account of a Greek revenant (vrykolakas) on the island of Mykonos (A Voyage into the Levant, vol. 1, 1718). The story begins with the unsolved murder of a local “ill-natur’d and […]

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Two Medieval Women Physicians

by tracybarrett October 20, 2012
Two Medieval Women Physicians

by Tracy Barrett Most people think of medieval women healers—if they think of them at all—as herb-women, maybe midwives, basically uneducated even by the standards of their time. But as I reported earlier, there’s evidence that a few women in the Middle Ages managed to get the same kind of training as their male counterparts. […]

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Bonanza denied by pickax and jackass

by CarolineLawrence October 15, 2012
Bonanza denied by pickax and jackass

By Caroline Lawrence (W&M Contributor) In 1849 two good-looking, well-educated brothers from Pennsylvania joined the surge of young men travelling westward to “make their pile” in California gold. Allen and Hosea Grosh endured hunger, cold, toothache, scurvy, rheumatism and so much dysentery that they had to learn to spell the word diarrhea for their letters home. […]

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Theatres of Anatomy

by Helen King October 10, 2012
Theatres of Anatomy

By Helen King (W&M contributor) I was recently lucky enough to visit for the first time two historic anatomy theatres: the oldest permanent structure, the Padua anatomy theatre of 1594, and the 1638-39 one in Bologna. Before 1594, anatomy theatres were temporary structures, in some cases erected at the expense of the professor performing the dissection. […]

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17th-century medicine and me: a novelist’s unlikely tale

by stephaniecowell September 29, 2012
17th-century medicine and me: a novelist’s unlikely tale

by Stephanie Cowell Novelists sometimes find themselves writing about areas of which they know little and believe me, I was the last person in the world to write about medicine or science. I had walked out of biology in eighth-grade when my teacher had encouraged us to stick our fingers in a cow’s heart. My […]

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Love Potion Number IX

by CarolineLawrence September 15, 2012
Love Potion Number IX

by Caroline Lawrence In the steamy hot room of the Roman baths, a muscular gladiator sighs as a slave scrapes the sweat, oil and dirt from his skin. The slave uses a strigil, a curved metal tool that performs the same task as the modern loofah. The strigil – or stlengis (στλεγγίς) as it’s called […]

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Seeds, wombs and ‘legitimate rape’

by Helen King September 10, 2012
Seeds, wombs and 'legitimate rape'

  By Helen King W&M Contributor Last month, in a much-repeated comment, Todd Akin recently claimed that ‘if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down’. Not surprisingly, he has been ridiculed for the lack of knowledge of biology that this comment betrays. It didn’t take […]

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Was There Any Truth in Truth Serum?

by JackEl-Hai September 9, 2012
Was There Any Truth in Truth Serum?

by Jack El-Hai Remember the routine from black and white espionage dramas of the 1940s and ‘50s? The bad guys detain a suspected spy, who won’t talk even after a rough interrogation. Soon, after receiving an injection of a colorless liquid, he’s muttering uncontrollably, spilling the details of an entire network of agents. The truth […]

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WARNING: TOXIC! The Deadly Dead

by Lindsey Fitzharris September 2, 2012
WARNING: TOXIC! The Deadly Dead

By Lindsey Fitzharris (W&M Contributor) When a person thinks of anatomical specimens from the past, he or she may think of disembodied remains floating in glass jars filled with alcohol. The Hunterian Collection at the Royal College of Surgeons in London is full of such specimens—unborn foetuses suspended in time as if still incubating in […]

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An Unsung Hero of the Proto-Wiki

by Marc Merlin August 22, 2012
An Unsung Hero of the Proto-Wiki

By Kelly Servick (Atlanta Science Tavern Contributor) This story begins with an expert in his field donating his time to an ambitious encyclopedia project. The work would be an unprecedented collaboration of authors and editors, relying on new technology to distribute it on an enormous scale. If you’re picturing a devoted Wikipedian at his laptop, […]

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