46 votes
Accepted

‘Avoid sleeping on your back’ & ‘breathe in toilet smells’ were seen as precautions against the Black Death. Why did doctors think these would work?

This cannot be answered comprehensively here. But a few key points might be revealed. The precautions mentioned in the question are by far not the only ones that were given, just mere examples. At ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
39 votes
Accepted

Where (if anywhere) were X-ray machines put on trains or trolleys to image "Everybody over 14 years old"?

It was in Glasgow in 1957, as part of the city's fight against tuberculosis. It's worth noting that the X-Ray machines weren't actually on the tram. It was simply used to advertise the campaign. [...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
37 votes
Accepted

Why wasn't sauerkraut used to combat scurvy?

The problem was that during the 18th Century, they didn't know that scurvy was caused by lack of Vitamin C (mainly because they didn't know what vitamins were). Therefore, they didn't go looking for ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
  • 19.9k
36 votes
Accepted

Is there a record of a rabid human attacking another human?

Using the historic term for rabies, hydrophobia, and searching 19th century documents, records of infected patients biting caregivers can be found quite readily. The 1879 edition of The Dublin Journal ...
justCal's user avatar
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27 votes
Accepted

Source of quote attributed to Florence Nightingale: To understand God's thoughts we must study statistics

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has the following citation for that quote: (apologies for the limited quality of the scan. I'm using my hand-held scanner.) As their source, they cite The Life, ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
17 votes
Accepted

How did PHS researchers prevent Tuskegee experiment participants from obtaining treatment on their own?

It was done by the researchers asking doctors and health officials nicely not to treat the research subjects, and there appears to be some controversy over exactly how many of the participants were, ...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
  • 3,728
15 votes

How did the Emperor Titus die?

SHORT ANSWER The most widely accepted view among scholars is that Titus died a natural death. He had a fever which may have been caused by malaria (note that its relationship to mosquitos was unknown ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

How was body temperature checked before thermometers?

Adding to the previous answers regarding the use of the hand to assess body temperature, there have been several works which are quite suited to answer this question, which I hope to summarise here. ...
Abdul-Kareem Abdul-Rahman's user avatar
14 votes
Accepted

What was the estimated malaria death toll for US Forces during World War II?

TL/ DR The figure of 60,000 fatalities due to malaria seems ridiculously high. The figures published by the Medical Departments of the various United States armed services in the years after the war ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
12 votes
Accepted

Did healers in medieval Europe use moldy bread in poultices for wounds?

Not made up from 'whole cloth' but copied from ancient papyrii? Many ancient cultures used molds, soil, and plants to treat bacterial infections. In Ancient Serbia, China and Greece, old moldy ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

What is the meaning of Verte! at the end of Sisi’s autopsy report?

Comparing both autopsies archived officially at (AT-OeStA/HHStA UR FUK 2790, 2791 Title: Zwei nach dem Ableben der Kaiserin und Königin Elisabeth aufgenommene legalisierte Protokolle über die ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

How did society regard identical twins in the 17th century in Europe?

I think it's safe to say that they were regarded not that differently than they are today. An easy example is Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors, from the beginning of the 17th century. That play ...
Gort the Robot's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

What oath did medical students take in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945?

tl;dr In fact, it appears that doctors in Germany during the Third Reich did take the Hippocratic Oath (or something equivalent to it). However, that Oath had been drastically re-interpreted in line ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
11 votes
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How were concussions treated in late 19th-century America?

Merck's 1899 Manual of the Materia Medica, described as a "ready reference pocket book for the practicing physician" has the following: Cerebral Concussion. Rest: absolute to be enjoined. ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Why was gout so prevalent in the past among rich people?

There's a few different things going on here. First, to get it out of the way, we've known that gout was linked to lifestyle since the beginning of medicine. No less a person than Hippocrates made ...
Gort the Robot's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

When was it considered fact that rats caused the Black Death?

I am not entirely sure of what you're question is but maybe this answer will clarify from a French Wiki page: Researchers working in Asia during the "Third Pandemic" identified plague vectors and the ...
user33232's user avatar
  • 411
10 votes
Accepted

Why did physicians recommend curing the "dancing plague" with more dancing?

Theories about the causes and cures of dancing mania John Waller, Dancing Plague: The Strange, True Story of an Extraordinary Illness (2009) argues that the Strasbourg dancers were exhibiting extreme ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
9 votes

What did people die of in 1665 London?

King's evil was an archaic term for scrofula, or Tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis Rupture was usually a hernia, but could also be a burst blood vessel. Livergrowne was just an enlarged liver. There ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.5k
9 votes

How was body temperature checked before thermometers?

Avicenna (980–1037) said that fever was the increased temperature of the heart (Canon I, part 4), so he checked the temperature by touching the chest over the heart with the hand. This system was ...
Alberto Yagos's user avatar
9 votes

Why did slave dealers and buyers in the Antebellum South especially value enslaved persons with "good teeth" and "good front teeth"?

The suggestion by @MCW in comments -- that veterinarians check the teeth of livestock -- is unfortunately probably the right track to follow. Southern Slave traders and slave buyers routinely stated ...
AlabamaScholiast's user avatar
9 votes
Accepted

How old is the idea that humans have 360 joints?

The idea that humans have 360 joints appears to derive from ancient Chinese cosmology. Notice what Dong Zongshu says more fully when he makes this statement; Man has 360 joints which match the number ...
arara's user avatar
  • 693
8 votes

What was it like to have type 1 diabetes in the early 20th century?

As a 21st Century Internist, I will add that the biggest distinction will be that most Type 1 Diabetics, as you have pointed out, will die earlier than we have see in modern medicine. They will also ...
david's user avatar
  • 345
8 votes
Accepted

Prior to 1790, before dentist chairs, did dentists put the patient's head between their knees?

Unfortunately, the source you cite doesn't give any references, but a similar description is also given in Avoiding the Tooth-Pullers: Dental Hygiene, Eighteenth-Century Style, which cites Dr. Johnson’...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
8 votes

How did historical peoples deal with choking?

Dealing with choking would have depended in part on what the obstruction was, where one was and who one was with. As even the surgical procedure tracheotomy can be traced back to ancient Egypt, it's ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
8 votes

What is the best book to learn about medicine in medieval times? (research for a novel)

If it's primary sources you're looking for, a good place to start is Medieval Medicine: A Reader by Faith Wallis (2010). According to one review by Linda Ehrsam Voigts of the University of Missouri-...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Was there a time when it was easier for slaves than citizens to access state-sponsored medical facilities in Ancient Rome?

The information given in the WP article seems a bit misleading and has the occasional error. The army and navy had its special valetudinaria. Therefore a soldier would have been treated there and as ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Has Nursing Always Been Female Dominated Like Today (90+%)?

Modern nursing came to being during the Crimean war, and was a 100% female thing for all practical intents at the time. US census might have data on job occupation by sex - I haven't checked - as ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
6 votes

Was the high consumption of (red) wine in Ancient Rome preventive of scurvy?

Wine has no vitamin C at all, so the answer would be: definitely no. But there's a twist. To expand on @LarsBosteen's comment: the wiki page on Posca and romae-vitam.com claim that Posca, rather than ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
6 votes

Was smoking ever considered a throat cure?

As many smokers might know, this herb will sooth the need to cough. A need that it itself contributes to. Short time effects in a habituated individual are the opposite of its long term effects. ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
6 votes

Did nutmeg really prevent infections during the Bubonic Plague?

Is there any truth to this, from a biological and historical perspective? Historic truth of the custom, yes, definitely: (Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel (i.e., Dr. Beak), a plague doctor in ...
DevSolar's user avatar
  • 13.9k

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