Monday, August 21, 2017

David Haviland Provides Fascinating Nonfiction History of Medical Practices!



How do you remove a brain? From around 3500 BC onward, the ancient Egyptians developed a complex system of mummification, preserving the corpses of their dead by drying them out, removing the internal organs, and wrapping the corpse in bandages. This practice may well have been inspired by the natural mummification which took place when bodies were buried in the arid Egyptian desert. Having observed that a body could be perfectly preserved after death, the Egyptians seem to have developed a belief that preservation of the body was necessary, if the spirit was to survive in the afterlife. They believed that the soul consisted of three separate spirits, and one of these, Ka, was intimately bound up with the physical body. Unless the body was preserved in this world, the Ka could not survive in the next. The mummification process was a complex, painstaking ritual. The body would be taken to Ibu, the ‘place of purification’, and washed in the waters of the Nile. It would then be taken to Per-Nefer, the ‘house of mummification’, to be embalmed. First, the brain would be removed and discarded, as it was thought to be unimportant...
interest in the Egyptians’ lavish tombs in the 19th century, they were faced with a number of mysteries. One of these was the question of how the Egyptians had managed to remove the brains of their dead. There was no evidence of damage to the mummies’ craniums, and yet the brains had been completely removed. How was this possible?
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We have always been fascinated by the macabre... We watched fascinated when the first Frankenstein was created... We rejoiced together with the Scarecrow who needed a brain...and many are crazy about everything undead... It is scary fun to enjoy entertainment that borders on the absurd, probably because we now know so much about the excellent medical work and research that is now being done...

But what of the time before modern medicine? There wasn't even certified doctors and hospitals that are readily available during those early years...
David Haviland has brought together a considerable history of both the reality of the evolution of medicine, as well as those who used it to swindle...




The book moves from ancient times on to the time of snake oil salesman
with chapters on The Wisdom of the Ancients, Disgusting Diseases, Dodgy Diagnosis, Curious Cures, The Good Doctor, Bad Medicine, The Human Body, Rude bits, Public Health, and Snake Oil...

I wasn't sure about this book, I admit. So when the first story talked about crocodile dung being used as a contraceptive, my first reaction was, "O Boy!" Then learned that dead mouse paste was used for toothache... "Geeze!"

Then I started the titled story about removing the brain...I got interested since it was related to ancient burial practices of Egypt, which is something most of us have heard about in relation to mummies... Now here's the thing, later we'll be reviewing some of the stories of grave robbing, which was true, because they needed fresh bodies to use for students of medicine...Now, Frankenstein might have gotten his brain that way...and the Scarecrow might have gotten his brain from a wizard... but nobody ever used the brains that were removed from Egyptians. You see, they thought the brain had no value after death, so how did they remove it, as they did all other internal parts of the body? Well... no I really can't tell you anything except... it...is...gross!

The key points of fascination was that they believed the heart was the most important part and was left in the body, while the brain held no interest... I immediately started thinking about the science fiction stories about saving the brain...




Ok, soon I was hooked... bizarre, scary, macabre, and yet fascinating to see how far off some doctors were in trying to help people...and yet others who started to learn more and begin to discover, sometimes by accident... and even a myth or two, such as that Julius Caesar was born by Caesarian birth, but actually that type of procedure had been used before Caesar was even born...

Here's some of my favorites from the book:
  • What is the disease of kings - Gout, due to rich foods and alcohol.
  • Of the four ‘humours’, what was special about ‘melancholy.’ These four humours were believed to be at the centre of a complex network of signs and relationships, which were thought to explain every aspect of a person’s health and personality. For example, each humour was associated with one of the four elements that the Greeks believed comprised the universe: air, fire, water, and earth. Blood was hot and agitated, like air. Yellow bile was hot and dry, and thus connected to fire. Phlegm was linked to water, and black bile was cold and dry, like earth. These analogies were extended to link the humours to astrology, the seasons, and different character types...
  • Why was Queen Victoria’s hernia never diagnosed?  Think about it...LOL
  • Was Adolf Hitler addicted to crystal meth? Actually, I was more surprised to know that it existed that far back, then that...he was...
  • How did Agatha Christie’s ‘The Pale Horse’ save lives? After reading the book, giving the symptoms...a friend saved another's life...Cool!
  • Who was the real Sherlock Holmes? A brilliant diagnostic doctor who used his observation skills for medical reasons!
I thought about loving medical thrillers based upon real-life potential...Well, readers of this book will read about thrills that were happening that were important to getting to where we are in our medical activities of today. I was happy to find this both an invaluable reference and quite enjoyable... Do check it out!


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