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Astromedicine, the notion that human health is in some way linked to the stars, is found in many societies. The Babylonians and Ancient Egyptians were famous for their astronomical knowledge, and used it to predict and diagnose disease, and influenced some Greek and Roman doctors from 100 BCE onwards. Galen of Pergamum preferred a meteorological explanation for illness, but his discussion of critical days allowed his successors in Late Antiquity to include the influence of the stars in their calculations. This Galenic astromedicine was developed by the Arabs and taken over in the learned medicine of Western Europe from 1200 CE. Objections were raised in the Renaissance, and by 1600, medical astrology had fallen out of favour among the elite physicians. Patients, however, still flocked to astrologers like Simon Forman. Arabic astromedicine also spread eastwards to India and Tibet, although Chinese astromedicine developed differently.

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The geographical contours of the medieval Islamic world extended from North Africa and Spain in the west to India and Central Asia in the east, with the central lands of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia playing a pivotal role. In temporal terms, it covered a period of roughly eleven centuries– from the middle of the seventh to the middle of the eighteenth. Over such a vast area and time span the nature of medical care varied greatly. The everyday medical practices and the general health of the Islamic community were influenced by many factors: the dietary and fasting laws and the general rules for hygiene and burying the dead of the various religious communities of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and others; the climatic conditions of the desert, marsh, mountain, and littoral communities; the different living conditions of nomadic, rural, and urban populations; local economic conditions and agricultural successes or failures; the amount of travel undertaken for commerce, for attendance at courts, or as a pilgrimage; the maintenance of a slave class and slave trade; the injuries and diseases attendant upon army camps and during battles; and the incidence of plague and other epidemics, as well as the occurrence of endemic conditions such as various dysenteries and certain eye diseases. The institutions and policies responsible for dispensing medical care were, moreover, subject to political and social fluctuations.
The first edition of Ancient Medicine was the most complete examination of the medicine of the Ancient world for a hundred years. The new edition includes the key discoveries made since the first edition, especially from important texts discovered in recent finds of papyri and manuscripts, making it the most comprehensive and up-to-date survey available. Vivian Nutton pays particular attention to the life and work of doctors in communities, links between medicine and magic, and examines the different approaches to medicine across the Ancient world. The new edition includes more on Rufus and Galen as well as augmented information on Babylonia, Hellenistic medicine and Late Antiquity. With recently discovered texts made accessible for the first time, and providing new evidence, this broad exploration challenges currently held perspectives, and proves an invaluable resource for students of both classics and the history of medicine.
MacDonaldMichael. Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Cambridge Monographs on the History of Medicine.) 1981. Pp. 323. $39.95. - Volume 13 Issue 4 - Peter McCandless
The Swiss-Austrian-German surgeon-alchemist-mystic Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541)?also known as Theophrastus Bombastus Aureolus von Hohenheim, or simply Paracelsus?is best known to medical history as a lone revolutionary. Legend has him burning Avicenna's Canon of Medicine and other classical medical texts in the town square of Basel, Switzerland, in 1527. These texts elaborated on the balanced humors of Galen, while Paracelsus, a much-traveled mining physician-surgeon, promulgated a toxicological and ontological concept of disease. Diseases were poisonings. The poisons were counteracted by other chemical substances, often with their own toxic properties. Paracelsus was a proto-homeopath; often his remedies were only slightly different from the harmful substances from which they were derived.
1st Publ Bibliogr. s. 229-234
Quack, conjurer, sex fiend, murderer—Simon Forman has been called all these things, and worse, ever since he was implicated (two years after his death) in the Overbury poisoning scandal that rocked the court of King James. But as Barbara Traister shows in this fascinating book, Forman's own unpublished manuscripts—considered here in their entirety for the first time—paint a quite different picture of the works and days of this notorious astrological physician of London. Although he received no formal medical education, Forman built a thriving practice. His success rankled the College of Physicians of London, who hounded Forman with fines and jail terms for nearly two decades. In addition to detailing case histories of his medical practice—the first such records known from London—as well as his run-ins with the College, Forman's manuscripts cover a wide variety of other matters, from astrology and alchemy to gardening and the theater. His autobiographical writings are among the earliest English examples of their genre and display an abiding passion for reworking his personal history in the best possible light, even though they show little evidence that Forman ever intended to publish them. Fantastic as many of Forman's manuscripts are, it is their more mundane aspects that make them such a priceless record of what daily life was like for ordinary inhabitants of Shakespeare's London. Forman's descriptions of the stench of a privy, the paralyzed limbs of a child, a lost bitch dog with a velvet collar all offer tantalizing glimpses of a world that seems at once very far away and intimately familiar. Anyone who wants to reclaim that world will enjoy this book.
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