Medicine, Art and Stamp Covers: Semmelweis and hand washing

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Stamp covers with their artwork can reflect events in the history of medicine. This Hungarian stamp cover was issued in 1965 to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) who discovered the association between childbed (puerperal) fever and mortality from the inadequate washing of the hands of the birth attendants. Semmelweis was a physician at the Vienna Lying-in hospital in Vienna. He concluded that infection was carried by medical students and doctors from the dissecting room where they had recently carried out dissections and post-mortem examinations. Following the introduction of hand washing with chlorinated water before examining obstetric patients, the mortality from childbed fever on the wards in the hospital fell significantly. Sadly, his colleagues did not immediately recognise or appreciate the importance of his discovery leading to his frustration and dismay.

The artwork on this stamp includes the bust of Semmelweis and shows him washing his hands before examining a female patient. There appears to be a sign on the wall above the pitcher which presumably relates to hand washing. It is also worth pointing out the incorrect spelling of his name although this is correct on the stamp.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the lesson with regard to hand washing needed to be relearnt a few years ago when there was concern about methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus in hospitals.

Dr Martyn Thomas May 2016

Master of Medical History of the Society of Apothecaries (MMHSA)

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The Society of Apothecaries is planning to offer to a limited number of applicants each year the opportunity to work towards a Research Masters, namely Master of Medical History of the Society of Apothecaries (MMHSA). There is much still to be considered but the submission would consist of a dissertation and presentation of the subject at a lecture.Continue reading

Call for Papers – Medicine, Environment and Health in the Eastern Mediterranean World, 1400-1750

Lazzaretto Vecchio (Brian Yen 2011)

3-4 April 2017, Christ’s College, Cambridge UK

Organised by Valentina Pugliano (University of Cambridge) and Nukhet Varlik (Rutgers-Newark University)
Sponsored by The Wellcome Trust; Christ’s College, Cambridge; and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.

This conference aims to offer, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of medicine, environment and health in the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, ca. 1400-1750.

While a considerable body of scholarship exists on Islamic and Byzantine science and medicine and their influence on the medieval Latin West, the state of medical theory and practice in the following centuries has been comparatively neglected and often spoken of in terms of intellectual stagnation and decline. The conference aims to challenge this narrative and reveal the continued vitality of knowledge making and transfer across the eastern Mediterranean world. Taking as our focus the politically heterogeneous southern Europe and eastern Mediterranean, the Mamluk Kingdom, and the Ottoman Empire, we aim to reconstruct the healthscape of this region in the early modern period, exploring its medical unity and disunity and the human and environmental factors that played a part in it.

For further details regarding the conference and the Call for Papers    Click Here

Suffolk Medical Biographies Website

It seems that that rural Suffolk is still the only county where anyone has attempted to make a comprehensive record of the existence of medical practitioners in previous centuries.
Dr David van Zwanenberg’s biographies cover men and women practising medicine in all its forms from the eleventh century until roughly 1900.
To qualify for an entry the person must have practised (or have been apprenticed) in Suffolk during that period.
Dr van Zwanenberg (1922- 1991) started his researches in the early 1970s, but he died before he could finish editing the work. His widow kindly donated his notes to the Suffolk Record Office at Ipswich and the reference number of this handwritten material is q.s.614.

To make the material more accessible, a website was set up in 2001  www.suffolkmedicalbiographies.com.
Over the years the information on it has been greatly expanded by the editor, Dr Edward Cockayne. DHMSA.

You can look for practitioners using their surname, status, place of practice, gender, or the century in which they lived. More excitingly, using the further details box on its own you can discover all sorts of things. Try tapping in ‘press gang’ ‘inoculation’ or ‘inquests’ just to see.