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  First, here is a link to the audio that I listened to, which is free to download: https://librivox.org/old-time-makers-of-medicine-by-jame...

Thursday, August 24, 2023



First, here is a link to the audio that I listened to, which is free to download: https://librivox.org/old-time-makers-of-medicine-by-james-joseph-walsh/

As these are my notes on an audio version of a thorough history of medicine, I did not labor to get the spelling of all the names or words right, but guessed at many of them. Sometimes I thought it necessary to put my own thoughts in parentheses. The reader of said audio is LivelyHive. Thanks to him, this interesting book may be absorbed with ease.  


Preface and Chapter 1: This book covers the period of the Middle Ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A. D. to the discovery of America. He gives the earlier context though as well. Our Forefathers in Medicine is his other book, which covers the period after the discovery of America down to his own time. He posits that medical ignorance was not what we think it was during the Middle Ages and that Christians made the progress that was made, possible. That is his thesis; he is a Roman Catholic. Some knowledge that they had in the Middle Ages was forgotten about; then it was rediscovered, either through ancient books or otherwise; this knowledge includes anesthesia, sepsis, and antisepsis. It is interesting that the author mentions the fall of the Roman Empire as being caused, in part, by invasion and infertility (choosing not to have children.) I have heard this opinion many times; it suits our case today. Much of the medicine in the ‘dark ages’ was recovered in the 19th century from old books. Barbarians coming into Rome was what began its intellectual decadence. This suits our case to a point as well. Basil Valentine is the father of pharmacy. This first chapter is excellent. Listened to it twice in a row; and I plan to do so again. The author is a clear writer. The reader is flat; but he reads slowly, which makes the material easy to follow; his pauses are in the right place; I can get used to him. 

Chapter 2, Part 1: This is on early Christian caring for the sick, and their hospitals, which date as far back as Basil in the fourth century. Before this, Christians were hindered more; but they did what they could.

Chapter 2, Part 2: Men do not regularly consent to surgery on the testes to cure varicose veins. Gynecology and cancer were known in the Middle Ages. Asheus (phonetic) was one of the first whose work was published by the printing press, though he lived many centuries earlier. There follows a summary of four brother physicians. 

Chapter 2, Part 3: This is on Alexander. Saltwater is for curing dandruff. (This probably works; too bad I didn’t know this as a kid and young man.) Headache is inflammation of the brain. (Alexander is full of common sense.) He observed a tapeworm that was 16 feet long. Other doctors are now summarized. Ecclesiastical control is the reason for the preservation of old works on medicine until the printing press was invented and could be used. Christians and Arabs translated many Greek works of medicine and other subjects into their languages. This knowledge they built on in their own studies, experiments, and treatments.

Chapter 3, Part 1: This is on great Jewish physicians. They labored greatly against prejudice. They drew on the Old Testament and the Talmud. The Old Testament is the foundation of rules of sanitation. (The Talmud has much in it that is correct.) Good description of canine rabies at 9 minutes: “His [the dog’s] mouth is open. The saliva opens from his mouth. His ears drop. His tail hangs between his legs. He runs sideways. And the dogs bark at him. Others say that he barks himself, and that his voice is very weak. No man has appeared who could say that he has seen a man live who was bitten by a mad dog.” The author says that this description is accurate up until his day. C-section is mentioned in the Talmud. The Talmud is a kind of encyclopedia on all kinds of knowledge. At 12 minutes a quote from the Talmud which the author calls ‘a famous summing up of the possibilities of life and happiness’: “Life is compatible with any disease, provided the bowels remain open; any kind of pain, provided the heart remain unaffected; any kind of uneasiness, provided the head is not attacked; all manner of evils, except it be a bad woman.” Author calls this quote ‘possible [sic?] wanting in gallantry, being set down to the times in which it was written.’      

Chapter 3, Part 2: This concerns the ninth century. It begins with the contemporary Jewish doctor of Charlemagne. Muslims studied Aristotle and Plato at Baghdad at this time. Jewish physicians influenced Arab leaders. At this time the Arabs too became successful physicians. Disraeli is called by one of his translators into Latin: ‘the monarch of physicians.’ Some of his maxims at 7:30 minutes to 8:30: “The most important duty of the physician is to prevent illness. Most patients get better without much help from the physician, by the power of nature.” He distrusted the use of many medicines at the same time. “Employ only one medicine at a time in all your cases, and note its effects carefully.” He was ‘as wise with regard to medical ethics as therapeutics.’ He wrote on fevers, urine, melancholy, diet, et cetera. He lived to over 100 years. There were decrees against the Jews by the Roman Church and the pope himself, the author admits; but the Jews overcame this. He says that they nevertheless became physicians to kings, bishops, and even popes. He does not blame the persecution of them on Christianity, but ‘defective human nature.’ He’s right, but only technically. Pope Innocent III he calls the greatest pope of the Middle Ages. This pope: “Let no Christian, by violence, compel them to come, dissenting or unwilling, to baptism. Further, let no Christian venture maliciously to harm their persons without a judgment of the civil power or to carry off their property or change their good customs, which they have hitherto in that district, which they inhabit.” Some later popes were of the same mind. Author generalizes that the popes of the Middle Ages were protectors, not persecutors, of Jews. His bias is showing, I think. He says it’s because of the popes that the Jews were not exterminated. He quotes a few Protestants to try to prove this. He blames their persecution on ‘local’ instances of ecclesiastical regulations, especially in France. A lot of it was to guard against ‘quackery.’ He ends with praise of Maimonides, a man greatly esteemed by later physicians. 

Chapter 4: Maimonides was the royal physician to Saladin. He was Jewish, and born in 1135 or 1139. Arabs introduced a system of irrigation not equaled by the Spaniards. Rural people leaned more on the intellectual side than people in the cities, for these latter pursued money more. The Jews were so happy in Spain that they wrote poems about it. The basis of education in Spain among Jews in Maimonides’ day: the Bible, the Talmud, math, astronomy, literature, law, and physical science. He was not precocious. His family had to flee Spain because of persecution. They settled in Cairo. Maimonides was one who cared for people, not diseases. His letters include rules on dietetics. This is summed up at 22-34 minutes. These rules are for staying healthy. (Most of them I agree with.) Salt and oil he recommends for constipation. This is important because this ailment makes one liable to disease, he maintains. Most diseases, he says, are caused by poor eating habits. Maimonides: “Every change in a life habit is the beginning of an ailment.” He was wise enough to reject astrology. His rules for believing, or not, things like astrology: Rational proof, as in math, perception of the senses, or traditions from prophets or learned men. In his day, men tended to believe whatever was written in a book, especially an ancient one. He read every astrological book he knew about, and could find no reason to believe in it. His proverb, borrowed from a Rabbi: “Teach thy tongue to say, ‘I don’t know.’” This is an acknowledgement that you may not have the answer to your query yet. He died in 1204. Even Aquinas quoted him.        

Chapter 5, Part 1: Great Arabian physicians. Before the time of Mahomet, right after the time of Christ, Arabs were ‘hireling soldiers’, generally uneducated, and nomadic. Nestorian Christians began to teach them. The Muslims burned ten centuries of books at Alexandria because: if they agreed with the Koran, they were useless; and if they disagreed with it, they were pernicious. Exceptions were made for books of science, including medicine. Knowledge contained in Greek books eventually allured them into becoming pupils. Aphorisms that follow in this chapter are by Razis (phonetic): “At the beginning of a disease, choose such remedies as will not lessen the patient’s strength. When you can heal by diet, prescribe no other remedy; and, where simple remedies suffice, do not take complicated ones.” Another, because of his belief in the influence of mind over body: “Physicians ought to console their patients even if the signs of impending death seem to be present, for the bodies of men are dependent on their spirits.” The most important thing for the physician to do, he believed, was to increase the patient’s natural vitality. “In treating a patient, let your first thought be to strengthen his natural vitality; if you strengthen that, you will remove ever so many ills without more ado. If you weaken it, however, by the remedies that you use, you always work harm.” The simpler means, the better, he believed. He insisted more on diet than on artificial remedies. “It is good for the physician that he should be able to cure disease by means of diet if possible rather than by means of medicine.” Another: “A patient who consults a great many physicians is likely to have a very confused state of mind.” A huge translation of his work was burned by the translator to avoid controversy. 

Chapter 5, Part 2: Ali Abus, a prestigious successor to Razis. His book on medicine was used as a standard for two centuries. Arab physicians flourished in Spain. An Arab produced the first illustrated medical book. There is an ingenious cure for a fracture in the pelvis of a woman at 14 minutes, not quoting. One of these Arab physicians had commentaries written on his work up to five centuries after he practiced. One of his books replaced the one by Abus, and was used for a long time. Nutrition per rectum was known at this time (11th century, I think.) On this rectum treatment, it was thought that the nutrients could be sucked up that way. One philosopher-physician did more harm than good because he practiced speculation more than observation. Arabs reared medical institutions in Baghdad and Cordova. Some medical terms still in use in the author’s day come from Greek and Latin sources, but through Arab translations. This testifies of Arab influence in medicine. Arabs did plagiarize a bit the ancient authors. They lack originality, theorize too much, and observe too little. Freind wrote A History of Medicine. (He must be the doctor whom I quoted in my Covid book.) 

Chapter 6: The medical school at Salerno, 10th century, in the south of Italy. Much training was required there to be licensed, about ten years, which included an undergraduate degree in assorted areas of knowledge. Man is interested in his health, then his prosperity, then his relationships to God and man, says the author. (He’s probably right about that.) William the Conqueror went to Salerno for treatment when still a duke. Salerno set the standard for credentials. King Roger of the two Sicilys, 1140, promulgated the law: “Whoever from this time forth desires to practice medicine must present himself before our officials and judges and be subject to their decision. Anyone audacious enough to neglect this shall be punished by imprisonment and confiscation of goods. This decree has for its object the protection of the subjects of our kingdom from the dangers arising from the ignorance of practitioners.” So this, says the author, was so that unfit, unworthy physicians might not practice to their benefit and to the detriment of the patients, which had been happening due to the popularity of Salerno as the hub of good medical practice. A physician’s visit was worth the salary of a patient’s day’s work. Their lack at Salerno of training in dissection was not due to Roman Catholic objection, says the author, but to people not wanting their dead relatives dissected. (This might be his bias speaking.) Arabs didn’t look to nature for healing as much as what was done at Salerno: diet, water, and so on. Salerno has a poem written about it, 3,500 lines long. At 38:30 there is information on bedside manner, not quoting. At 41:30: physicians used a bit of deception for the good of the patient, not quoting. 

Chapter 7: Constantine Africanus in Salerno. He is the link between Arab and Western medicine. (Many of these physicians lived long lives, as did this one, some to over a hundred years.) Other physicians were jealous of him because of his renown and innovations; they gave him much trouble. He became a friend to the future pope: Desiderius (phonetic): a Pope Victor. Hard to say which works are Africanus’ because some writers used his name in order to have their works read. In that day, ten centuries ago and even during the renaissance, it was common for a writer to sign a known writer’s name to his work, and not care if he himself became forgotten, as long as his thoughts would be read. There was no question of money. Author: “Literature that has deeply influenced mankind has never paid.” Money-making publications, he adds, have been insignificant works that have affected people superficially. This is the best chapter so far except for the first one. 

Chapter 8: Medieval women physicians: the education of women at Salerno for the treatment of women’s diseases. Plato believed that women should be educated. So the idea is an old one. The author gives a brief history lesson on the education of women. There were Greek and Roman physicians, for example; they were not rare. Some early Christian women were not only physicians, but surgeons. He gives some information on some of the medieval women physicians and their manuscripts. They learned all branches of medicine, but practiced mainly one: that which concerns women diseases. This level of education spread into the whole of Italy, but not the West, at least not for licensing. Benedictines were the driving influence in Salerno for producing women physicians. ‘Sister infirmians’ were in monasteries and convents. Whether this means physicians or nurses, the author does not say. Hildegard (1098-1179) was a woman physician who corresponded with great men of the age and wrote much on medicine and natural subjects like trees and minerals. She anticipated many instances of modern ideas in medicine. For example, she asserted the circulation of blood centuries before William Harvey (1578-1657) discovered it. She said this about stars in the firmament: “Just as the blood moves in the veins, which causes them to vibrate and pulsate, so the stars move in the firmament, and send out sparks, as it were of light, like the vibrations of the veins.” In 1311 in France, women were allowed to practice medicine. By the 16th century, women physicians were almost a thing of the past. And the fact that women have practiced the profession has been all but forgotten (in the author’s day.) (My suspicion is that most of the ‘women physicians,’ since they majored in ‘women’s diseases,’ might have been no more than ‘midwives,’ though the author does not use that word. And this would sometimes necessitate a kind of surgery, which is simply cutting; and therefore midwives could have been called surgeons because of that.) He recommends a couple of his other books for proving the point that we often have to rediscover things that we already knew. ‘Escape the tooth of time’ is a good turn of phrase by the author. ‘Quack-salver’ is an ancient epithet, their name for a snake-oil salesman, or carpetbagger.         

Chapter 9, Part 1: Mondino (b. 1275) and the Medical School at Bologna. This school is a legacy of Salerno. It advanced in the department of anatomy. Mondino wrote a manual on the subject. He reintroduced the practice of dissection, which was an advance on the dissection of pigs. His public dissection of bodies was probably the first of these regularly made. Advances in medicine came mainly from education in Italy; it was this way for centuries. Here the author objects to the idea that the Roman Church was opposed to science in the Middle Ages. We need to acquaint ourselves with firsthand sources in order to learn this, he says. Dante was advancing literature. Giotto was beginning modern art. Why should it be hard to believe that medicine, too, was making strides? He gives some notes on Tadio, a great physician. The university (which included, I think, the medical school) at Bologna had, by the end of the 13th century, no less than 15,000-20,000 students. It was the custom, then, to learn both medicine and philosophy. 

Chapter 9, Part 2: Mondino was not the first to do human dissection, as is commonly supposed. The author gives recent anecdotes from his own time on body snatching. This he gives to prove that it is easy to suppose that body snatching occurred in Mondino’s day for dissection. The author wrote a book, The Popes and Science. Some professors in Italy were women from at least the 1200s to the author’s day. He shows how it must be inferred from Mondino’s writings that he did many human dissections. (I think his proofs from inferences are legit.) Mondino’s manual ruled for two centuries. 

Chapter 10, Part 1: Great surgeons of medieval universities. Historians generally contend that surgeries were not performed in the Middle Ages and that the Roman Church was the cause. The author, of course, is not of this mind. Medical historians know better. Surgery developed wonderfully in the 13th and 14th centuries. Surgeons of that day knew that a fractured skull did not necessarily exhibit a visible wound, a fact not always recognized in prisons of the author’s day. Most of this chapter is about a commentary by ‘the four masters.’ At 22 minutes they have a note on how the surgeon must have clean hands, have eaten no foods that may corrupt the air through exhalation, and have had no recent contact with menstruating (‘and other’) women. (Maybe this is a reason for the segregation of menstruating women for longer periods of time than for other reasons in the Old Testament: not concerning ceremonial purity merely, but literal cleanliness! What he means by ‘other women’: maybe sexual contact?) The medical institution at Salerno was likely founded in the 10th century; the one at Bologna in the 12th century. At 26 minutes a quote to prove anesthesia was not discovered in the middle of the 19th century in America, but was a practice in olden times; so this, from Tom Middleton in the 16th century: “…the mercies of old surgeons, who put their patients to sleep before they cut them.” Anesthetics were experimented with as early as the 13th century.

Chapter 10, Part 2: Bruno de Longo Burgo. He recommends surgery only after diet and potions have failed. Physicians had now become more eclectic in their gathering of knowledge. Wine was the best known antiseptic; wounds were washed with wine. Better food, they believed, produced better blood. Notes on Burgo’s work follows from this, which I am not summarizing. One surgeon removed (which resulted in a cure) a tumor the size of a hen’s egg from the mouth of a woman. He did it by heated instruments; thereby, (I suppose) removing the tumor and cauterizing the wound at the same time. Her cure was made more lasting and certain by the removal of loose teeth from the affected area. At 27 minutes occurs a passage on the qualifications of surgeons. It’s too long for quoting; but it’s good to know where it is just in case. Surgeon named Lon Frank (phonetic) at 28 minutes: “The surgeon should not love difficult cases, and should not allow himself to be tempted to undertake those that are desperate. He should help the poor as far as he can. But he should not hesitate to ask for good fees from the rich.” 

Chapter 10, Part 3: Mondeville. His work was not published until 1892, though he did his work in the 13th century. He accompanied the king (with other physicians) on his campaigns. He had not much time to write. He was a learned man who happened to become a physician. Confidence in the surgeon is often more important than the surgeon’s work in producing a cure. The patient’s relatives must not be told too much in case they drop some bad news on the patient. (This rule must still be in effect, based on my observations.) The surgeon’s assistants must be cheery in order to keep up the humor of the patient. (This is definitely still in effect, for I have experienced this before the doctor went for a biopsy of my stomach via my throat, and in dentistry.) Mondeville on problems arising from women nursing their husbands: at 17:45 minutes: “In our days, in this Gallican part of the world, wives rule their husbands; and the men, for the most part, permit themselves to be ruled. Whatever a surgeon may order for the cure of a husband will then often seem to the wives to be a waste of good material, though the men seem to be quite willing to get anything that may be ordered for the cure of their wives. The whole cause of this seems to be that every woman seems to think that her husband is not as good as those of other women whom she sees around her.” At 19:15 on categories: just as Gallan divides the famous physicians of the world into three sects: the Methodists, the empirics, and the rationalists; Mondeville divides modern surgery into three sects (naming certain names of physicians into three groups.) The methods of these sects divided by Mondeville: the first sect: they limited patients’ diet, used no stimulants, dilated all wounds, and got union only after puss formation; the second sect: they allowed a liberal diet to weak patients, though not to the strong, but generally interfered with wounds too much; the third sect believed in a liberal diet, never dilated wounds, never inserted tents (probably stents), and its members were extremely careful not to complicate wounds of the head by unwise interference. At 21:15 minutes on the kinds of traveling charlatans in Mondeville’s day, as quoted from Mondeville’s work: “barbers, soothsayers, loan agents, falsifiers, alchemists, mitch-heresies (?), midwives, old women, converted Jews, Saracens, and indeed most of those who, having wasted their substance foolishly, now proceed to make physicians or surgeons of themselves in order to make their living under the cloak of healing.” The author mentions an English physician at that time, a surgeon. (Usually he sticks with Italy or France.) There was a condition that caused fecal vomiting. Other areas of science, not only the medical field, he says, were more advanced than is thought. (Many of these physicians were Roman Catholic clergymen and/or bishops and/or Dominicans.) 

Chapter 11 Part 1: Guy de Chauliac. The surgery of that day was, in fact, says the author, ‘applied science.’ (He says this because that was disputed in his day.) Chauliac was the father of modern surgery. He lived in the 14th century. He was another physician-cleric. Going to Italy from France in that day was more costly and took more time, says the author, than taking a voyage to America from Europe in the author’s day. Chauliac’s book was the most read book on medicine for centuries. The RC Church was the patron of many physicians, including Chauliac. A Scot taught medicine in France in his day; Chauliac had no respect for his book. At 13:45 minutes there is a description of dissection, not quoting. There were body snatchings in his day in Bologna. Chauliac was a physician to three popes. He wrote one of his books ‘for solace in old age.’ (Maybe a good idea.) Fear and love are obstacles, says Chauliac, to discovery. What he means is that people, because of love or fear, commonly accept, without discrimination, what authorities have decided is true. (He has a point.) Few men think for themselves, says the author. (These thoughts are pretty good at around 23 minutes.) He quotes John Ruskin: “Nothing is harder than to see something and tell it simply as you saw it.” Men of Chauliac’s day lacked the critical faculty; this was not a fault in Chauliac.

Chapter 11, Part 2: Some surgical procedures in the author’s day, as well as the architectural designs of hospitals, were learned from Chauliac’s time. The medieval hospitals had a more cheerful look; and they were more practically built. Hernia was Chauliac’s specialty. He said that a truss should be worn over the hernia and that no surgery should be attempted unless the hernia endangered the patient’s life. He invented a manipulation of the hernia that was still in use in the 19th century. Chauliac discusses six surgeries for it. Sepsis was starting to be disregarded (not by him) in Chauliac’s day. The author calls Freind ‘that great English physician.’ (I quoted a letter to Freind in my Covid book.) Freind called Chauliac ‘the prince of surgeons.’ Chauliac cared for the sick during a bubonic plague while so many other physicians fled. He also wrote about said plague. (At 23 minutes: The qualifications that he laid out for surgeons to measure up to reminds me of qualifications for ministers in the NT.) He has been often compared to Hippocrates. At 24:30 there is a list of the great men of his time: Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Giotto. Foundations of modern art were being laid; great cathedrals were being finished; universities were in ‘the first flush of their success.’ Chauliac was the most admired surgeon for centuries after his death. His books were copied and translated into all the languages of Europe in his day or shortly after. The editions of his work are numerous across the centuries. Decadence in surgery, however, followed his death, until the Renaissance injected it with new life. 

Chapter 12, Part 1: Medieval dentistry: Giovanni of Arcoli. Dentistry achieved a high degree of excellence even in ancient history, among the Phoenicians, for example, in dental bridgework. Among the Etruscans, too, this was the case, circa 500 B. C. Most replacement teeth were removed for burial among ancient people for reuse and/or for religious reasons. Causes of tooth decay were written about by Chauliac, with a fair amount of knowledge. Tooth powder (what we call toothpaste) was recommended by him, and a recipe is given for the making of it. A false tooth may be fashioned from ox bone, says Chauliac. Arcoli is the first physician we know of to speak of filling teeth with gold. At 22:30 minutes a decalogue is recited about the preservation of teeth, not quoting. 

Chapter 12, Part 2: Medieval dentistry again. Anatomy of teeth not developed until a century after Arcoli, who was born near the end of the 1300s and who died either in 1460 or 1484, probably the former. His books were popular and literary. Something called ‘alcoholic insanity’ is mentioned from the olden time. (Probably this is the Delirium Tremens, which I have experienced.) Arcoli describes four kinds of angina. 

Chapter 13: Cusanus and the first suggestion of laboratory methods in medicine. Cardinal Cusanus suggested counting the pulse rate by the water clock in 1450 or so for diagnostic purposes. (Watches were not invented yet.) He was a not a physician, but a mathematician. A century before Copernicus, he asserted that the earth moved and was not the center of the universe. “His intuition outran by far the knowledge of his time.” (On the constitution of the sun, the author thinks Cusanus was a genius to figure it out; but his theory of its constitution has since been proven wrong, for it is made of hydrogen and helium.) His best known work is called, On Learned Ignorance. I looked for it; did not find. What he means by the title is that “men know many things that ain’t so,” as quoted by the author from some writer or other. Cusanus suggested weighing urine for diagnostic purposes, not only observing its color and tasting it. At 16:45 minutes is a quote from Nicholas of Cusa from the 15th century about seeking knowledge, not quoting. This quote is to show that not all men of his time merely accepted what they were told to believe. (This is the author’s bugbear, or one of them.) Nicholas received his doctorate at the age of twenty-three, was made a cardinal at the age of forty, and became one of the leaders in Europe. He did much of his thinking on his horse, and figured some things out by observing the conduct of flies. Back to Cusanus: at 24 minutes is the outline of the proper political system, according to him, not quoting. Usually it’s a young man early in his career who makes breakthroughs, says the author, before his mind is cumbered with the opinions of others. 

Chapter 14, Part 1: Basil Valentine, Last of the Alchemists, First of the Chemists. He was a Benedictine monk and the founder of pharmaceutical chemistry. (Isn’t it interesting that pharmacologists originate from alchemists?) Elements had been known as earth, air, fire, and water. But Valentine advanced this to sulfur, mercury, and salt. (I think he said ‘salt,’ not certain; his reasons are explained, starting at 11:30.) At 12:45 there is a passage that can be taken for the theme of the book, and so must be fully quoted: “It is a little bit hard in our time for most people to understand just how such a development of thoroughly scientific chemical notions, with investigations for their practical application, should have come before the end of the Middle Ages. This difficulty of understanding, however, we are coming to realize in recent years, is entirely due to our ignorance of the period. We have known little or nothing about the science of the Middle Ages because it was hidden away in rare old books, in rather difficult Latin, not easy to get at, and still less easy to understand always; and we have been prone to conclude that since we knew nothing about it, there must have been nothing. Just inasmuch as we have learned something definite about medieval scholars, our admiration has increased.” The author shows that foundations have been laid for even great men like Isaac Newton. The word ‘amalgam’ comes from Aquinas. Roger Bacon made astonishing predictions in the13th century on propulsion. See that at 16:00. At 19:45: on monks knowing more than we give them credit for: they often exercised genius to solve great problems. (The author seems to have believed in the renaissance of belief that was current in the early 20th century, of the transmutation of metals: which is nothing else than the failed magic of alchemy, unless he means the amalgam of metals to make new compounds. This is the most important chapter since the first one; there is a great sweep of information in it; must listen to it again and maybe take it and the best chapters and put them into my ‘favorites’ thumb drive. Chapter 14, part 1 is likely what his book on the thirteenth century is like. I’m looking forward to listening to it, even if he was a Roman Catholic.)              

Chapter 14, Part 2: He gives a list of influential scholars from the Germany of that time. Many legends were invented for the lives of characters like Valentine and Roger Bacon. The author narrates a few of them. Paracelsus and Van Helmont picked up pharmaceutics where Valentine left off. The chemical side of medicine then made gradual progress. Valentine developed hydrochloric acid and sulfate of copper. He anticipated the theory of respiration, even to the point of stating that fish need oxygen. Great harm was done by the use (abuse) of antimony (for it apparently worked well if not abused); it was eventually replaced by venesection, or blood-letting, though it was used well into the 19th century. At 19:45 there is a quote on what a classic is like, from a man called Russell Lowell: “To read a classic, no matter how antique, is like reading a commentary on the morning paper, so up to date does genius ever remain.” At 22:55 there is a quote from Valentine’s book, The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, to show that his book on the science of chemistry is often sermonic: “Love leaves nothing entire or sound in man. It impedes his sleep. He cannot rest, either day or night. It takes off his appetite that he hath no disposition either to eat or drink by reason of the continual torments of his heart and mind. It deprives him of all providence. Hence he neglects his affairs, vocation, and business. He minds neither study, labor, nor prayer, casts away all thoughts of anything but the body beloved. This is his study, this, his most vain occupation. If two lovers the success be not answerable to their wish, or so soon and prosperously as they desire, how many melancholies henceforth arise, with griefs and sadness, with which they pine away and wax so lean as they have scarcely any flesh cleaving to the bones? Yea, at last they lose the life itself, as may be proved by many examples. For such men, which is a horrible thing to think of, slight and neglect all perils and detriments, both of the body and life, and of the soul and eternal salvation.” He continues: “How many testimonies of this violence which is in love are daily found, for it not only inflames the younger sort, but it so far exaggerates some persons far gone in years, as through the burning heat thereof, they are almost mad. Natural diseases are for the most part governed by the complexion of man, and therefore invade some more fiercely, others more gently; but love, without distinction of poor or rich, young or old, seizeth all, and having seized, so blinds them, as forgetting all rules of reason, they neither see nor hear any snare.” (Would have to look at the text to get this right for quoting because I had to guess at some of the words, as well as the grammar; it’s a good passage though, as good as a Puritan would compose.) Some of Valentine’s other books’ titles are given at 30:15, good for chemists. He did not try to transmute metals for selfish gain, the author assures us. And he believed in nature more than in chemical drugs. (Much of this chapter is on antimony and the use and success of it. It seems to have included salt and I know not what else; from what I gather in this chapter, it seems to have been the first pharmaceutical drug, though this is not explicitly asserted.)

Appendix 1, Part 1: Luke the Physician. The author takes the traditional view against the higher critics about Luke having been a physician. Reasons are given, then, to show how his account brings this out. Background is added, too, of medicine before, during, and after his day in that part of the world. Henry Samuel Baines has done a bio of Luke, published in 1870, he says. (That would be worth looking up.) This is an interesting, important chapter, the third or fourth so far to deserve a place in my ‘favorites.’ See the ends of the chapter notes to see the ones that I said were most worthy.

Appendix 1, Part 2: Similarity of style between the third gospel and the book of Acts has established the single authorship of Luke. The use of medical words employed has established it. At 3 minutes a book is recommended by Harnack on the subject, and another at 5 minutes. The close of this chapter could be used for a quote on scholars, like in the Millennium book: their use of modern translations and, I think, even modern concordances.     

Appendix 2, Part 1: Science at the medieval universities. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a neglect of history. (I have noticed this as well in my pursuit of knowledge on dragons; but life was hard in those days; and the authors were busy with important subjects.) This is why the science of medieval times is little known about. Their hospitals were better than what these later centuries built. Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and Thomas Aquinas were the three major teachers of the 13th century. (The author says that the greatest mind ever was probably Aristotle. He mentions something called Monograph on the History of Thought by G. H. Lewes; could look that up because Lewes is the author who wrote the excellent Life of Maximilien Robespierre, which ended up helped me a lot for my Covid book. Just looked it up: the monograph might be the same as his Biographical History of Philosophy, which I do not want.) The author then shares praises of Aristotle in order to defend the medieval giants who were devoted to him. The author says, through quotes, that the theory of evolution may be found in Aristotle’s writings. To prove that great men of medieval times were not overly devoted to Aristotle, the author points out that Magnus corrected Aristotle on some things and Bacon discouraged the study of Aristotle because men relied on him so much as to not think for themselves. Four grounds of human ignorance at 23 minutes from Roger Bacon: “First, trust in inadequate authority; second, that force of custom which leads men to accept without properly questioning what has been accepted before their time; third, the placing of confidence in the assertions of the inexperience; and fourth, the hiding of one’s own ignorance behind a parade of superficial knowledge so that we are afraid to say, ‘I do not know.’” Bacon at 24 minutes: “The strongest argument proves nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Experimental science is the queen of sciences and the goal of all speculation.” Contrary to popular belief, the author says, the universities of the Middle Ages did not neglect science, they were scientific universities. The study of classic languages came into its own only in the renaissance.                                         

Appendix 2, Part 2: Some quotes are given in support of Magnus having been a great botanist, among other specialties. He wrote much on a variety of topics, like meteors, sleep, old age, youth, the soul, and death. He was a phenomenon of the Middle Ages. He followed Hippocrates and Augustine more than Aristotle on scientific and medical matters. Roger Bacon was much interested in astronomy, invented spectacles and developed lenses. One of Bacon’s prophecies (because he believed that man would one day be able to control the energies exhibited by explosives): “Art can construct instruments of navigation, such that the largest vessels governed by a single man will traverse rivers and seas more rapidly than if they were filled with oarsmen. One may also make carriages which, without the aid of any animal, will run with remarkable swiftness.” He predicted flying also, though not by explosive compulsion. Aquinas anticipated many modern ideas as well. He said, “Nothing at all would ever be reduced to nothingness.” This is the law of the ‘conservation of matter.’ These three men did not believe in the transmutation of metals in the exaggerated sense, as did some of their contemporaries. Dante’s writings are full of science and nature, and in surprising detail. Science was taught by the great teachers back then, not literature. Theology, law, and medicine were the graduate departments, theology being a science. In the time of Emperor Frederick II around 1241, a law was passed concerning the regulation of medicine. Based on this information, here is a quote from our author: “If the government inspector violated his obligations as to the oversight of drug preparations, the penalty was death.” (All of our Covid vaccine pushers would be in violation in that day.) The author goes into detail about the time and rigor involved in the making of a physician in that century. Of course their therapeutic arts were often absurd, he admits. Professor Richid? at 23:47 said: “The therapeutics of any generation is quite absurd to the second succeeding generation.” In this medieval time, doses of opium were figured out, and laxatives were used to good effect, as was iron. Leprosy too was controlled and even expelled from Europe. They anticipated much in surgery, rabies, and blood poisoning. Modern advance is often reinvention. Alcohol is still used as an antiseptic. The author explains the pope’s bulls against dissection as that which did not forbid the practice absolutely; and he rationalizes generally about this and other papal restrictions. He says that surgery in the medieval time has only been surpassed by what is being done in the author’s day, and this only ‘possibly.’ Medieval arts and crafts are not surpassed yet, he says. (He’s right about that.) The author defends his thesis for a lot of this chapter. So there is quite a bit of reiteration. The thesis: the medieval time was not backward scientifically, but as theoretically and practically advanced as it in the 19th century. “Their minds were occupied entirely with science,” says the author about the students and teachers of the universities in that late medieval day. (He stretches things because this thesis of his has possessed him almost to the point of fanaticism; for sure it has negatively affected his critical faculty.)

Appendix 3: Medieval popularization of science, and footnotes. Inductive investigation was not unknown and unpracticed in the Middle Ages. Boethius did it in the sixth century, and wrote many books on sundry topics. (His Consolation of Philosophy is an excellent book, which I read awhile ago.) He influenced many great writers, including Dante. Next the author speaks of Cassiodorus and his works, and after that Isidore of Seville from the 7th century. The next link is the Venerable Bede. He wrote mainly on history, but on science as well. (He wrote The Explanation of the Apocalypse, which I did not find particularly helpful.) Only in the 13th century, the author’s ‘favorite,’ did the university spirit take hold. The author uses the word ‘misinformation,’ which is interesting in light of its use today and some of us thinking that it is of contemporary origin. Here is a quote at 17 minutes on madness under the category of ‘medical lore’ from a 13th century encyclopedia, a work often adverted to by Shakespeare from a 15th century edition of the same for quoting and for the use of many expressions: the author of the quote is Batholomaeus Anglicus: “Madness cometh sometimes of passions of the soul, and of business and of great thoughts, of sorrow, and of too great study, and of dread, sometime of the biting of a wood-hound or some other venomous beast, sometime of melancholy meats, and sometimes of drink of strong wine. And, as the causes be diverse, the tokens and signs be diverse, for some cry and leap and hurt and wound themselves and other men, and darken and hide themselves in privy and secret places, the medicine of them is that they be bound, that they hurt not themselves and other men; and mainly, such shall be refreshed and comforted and withdrawn from cause and matter of dread and busy thoughts. And they must be gladdened with instruments of music and some deal be occupied.” The author quoted this passage on lunacy for its visible quaintness in the old orthography, but also because the causes, symptoms, and treatment are as well and succinctly put as anywhere he has ever read. The next quote from the same encyclopedia is about the result of the bite of a mad dog; the old word for mad is ‘wood’ and is in use here: “The biting of a wood-hound is deadly and venomous, and such venom is perilous, for it is long hidden, and unknown, and increaseth and multiplieth itself, and is sometimes unknown to the year’s end; and then the same day and hour of the biting it cometh to the head, and breedeth frenzy. They that are bitten of a wood-hound have in their sleep dreadful sights, and are fearful, astonied, and wroth without cause; and they dread to be seen of other men, and bark as hounds; and they dread water most of all things; and are a-feared thereof and sore and squeamiss also. Against the biting of a wood-hound, wise men and ready use to make the wounds to bleed with fire or with iron that the venom may come out with the blood that cometh out of the wound.” (This is not word perfect, for I had to guess at some of the words and at some of the spelling; and I had to guess at the grammar too; it’s close though.) 

Footnotes: Many absurd therapies used in the author’s recent times were as absurd as the most absurd ones that are found in the Talmud. It is surprising that something as useful as the ligature (though sometimes employed improperly to the hurt of patients) could have fallen into disuse, as once it did. The author: “The first dentist who filled teeth with amalgam in New York some eighty years ago had to flee for his life because of a hue and cry set up that he was poisoning his patients with mercury.” On the meaning of ‘universitas’: in the Middle Ages it refers to the whole world of students for the study of anything. Physicians of that day wore a cloak, and often a mask to protect them from infections. Some signs of pharmacy used: mortar and pestle, colored lights in windows of drug stores, the many colored barber pole, and (in the author’s day, I guess) the wooden Indian for the tobacco store. (I didn’t name all the signs he gave for the Middle Age pharmacy, only the ones I might recognize.) Spelling had no fixed rule in the Middle Ages; some of the same words could be written differently on the same page. Medical books were some of the first that were published by the printing press. He speaks of the neglect that medieval medical books have suffered since the late 17th century until his day, more neglected than before.

(There is a lot of learning in this book; nothing to help my ailments, probably; but definitely a worthwhile one to listen to. I would probably give it an A- instead of A, but only because the subject is an obsession with him, which therefore renders some of the information suspect; and also because the noticeable bias in favor of the Roman Church means the turning of a blind eye. The chapters to bring together for listening to again are: 1; 7; 14, part 1; appendix 1, part 1: all good for my ‘favorites’ drive.)


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