Seeing is Believing: Ophthalmology Over the Ages

We have all heard the phrase “an eye for an eye.” The full passage, from The Code of Hammurabi, 2250 B.C.E., reads, “If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye.” Less well known are the other ocular codes, including, “If a physician open an abscess (in the eye) of a man with a bronze lancet and destroy the man’s eye, they shall cut off his fingers.”

Ophthalmology, in a way, thus existed in ancient Babylon, meaning that the field is over 4,000 years old. Indeed, the ancient Egyptians detailed the treatment of cataracts and trachoma in papyri dating to 1650 B.C.E.

Hippocrates, the father of all medicine who lived in Greece in 5th century B.C.E., knew of the optic nerve, though he did not understand its function. He described many treatments for maladies of the eye, including restricted diets, hot footbaths and even cutting incisions into the scalp to excise the “morbid humors” of the eye. Galen, whose influence on Western medicine through the 18th century cannot be overstated, wrote two volumes related to ophthalmology, both of which are lost to history. However, his Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye exists to this day and prevailed for nearly 1,500 years after his death in 210 C.E.

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“Look” Out for Our New Series: Seeing is Believing

As the medievalists among you probably know, #MedievalMondays has drawn to a close. This new blog series, Seeing is Believing, is one of two that will be taking its place. (Stay tuned next month as Caitlin Angelone, our Reference Librarian and Queen of Pamphlets, introduces you to some of our trade ephemera.)

Every other month, I will be scouring our collection for thematically linked material that is interesting to read about but is also interesting to look at. As such, what more fitting topic could be chosen for the inaugural month than the eye, the very vessel of seeing.

Plate 28 from Traité des Maladies des Yeax, by Antoine Pierre Demours, 1762-1836.

Stay tuned to this blog for the introductory post to this month’s topic next Monday 2/2/2018, and follow us on Twitter @CPPHistMedLib where each week this month I will be adding to this brief history of ophthalmology by posting a new image with a link to the full metadata in our Digital Library.

Recipes for “Natural Magick”

(This is our second blog entry in The Recipes Project’s virtual conversation, “What is a Recipe?” For a bit of background or to read the first article, on a 19th Century recipe manuscript from Lancaster, PA, click here.)

Magia Naturalis, or Natural Magick, written by Giambattista della Porta was first published in 1558 in Naples when the author was fifteen years old. Della Porta was an Italian scholar and playwright known for his expertise and knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, and for having contributed many advances to the fields of agriculture, optics, pharmacology, hydraulics and more.

The edition held at The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is the first English translation published in 1658, 100 years after its initial publication. It contains some of the additions added by della Porta in subsequent editions, most notably, the first published description of the convex lens and camera obscura. Though he did not invent these, his work in perfecting and describing them, and their inclusion in Natural Magick, contributed to the dissemination of this knowledge.

But, you may be asking by now, what does this have to do with recipes? A quick look at almost any page in volume reveals the answer.

 

Bread recipes from Natural Magick

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The Battle Creek Sanitarium: Constructing History Through Ephemera

The Battle Creek Sanitarium of Battle Creek, Michigan was a health resort which employed holistic methods based on principles promoted by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Treatments included hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, phototherapy, physical training, exposure to fresh air, enemas, and dietetic plans crafted to lower patient’s libidos in order to live a chaste lifestyle free of sin. It became a destination for both prominent and middle-class American citizens, including celebrities such as J.C. Penney, Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, Warren Harding, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Sojourner Truth. In order to draw so many prominent figures and a wealthy base of clients to its somewhat remote location in Michigan – and to promote the ideas of its founders, the Kellogg brothers – the Sanitarium needed to produce a wide swath of promotional materials, many of which survive today in The Historical Medical Library’s Medical Trade Ephemera collection.

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(Text) Mining in West Virginia: Extracting Resources from Our Digital Texts

The Historical Medical Library, as part of its role with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), is working on a consortium wide digitization effort, in conjunction with the Internet Archive, to provide scholarly access to the entirety of the State Medical Society Journals published in the 20th century. For an introduction to this project, you can read my previous blog post.

In this post, I would like to explore what I began to discuss at the end of my last post: the application of computer aided text analysis techniques, also referred to as “text mining.” In this second-in-a-series of posts about the MHL project and the possibilities for digital scholarship, I will offer an introduction to some of the core concepts of text mining, as well as some easy-to-use, browser-based tools for getting started without the need for a high level of expertise, or specialized software.  There will be a link to some more in-depth resources and processes at the end of this article for people interested in exploring some of these concepts and processes more fully.

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