Historical Aspects of Disease1


    INFORMATION regarding disease in the past may be derived from three sources—from human and animal remains in ancient times (a considerably limited field), from a study of old sculptures models, and pictures, which give more especially evidences of abnormalities in growth, and finally from a study of the medical and other writings of the past. Achondroplasia has been shown to exist in Egypt so early as the Sixth Dynasty (2900 B.C.), and achondroplasic dwarfs are often to be observed in Egyptian mural paintings. Pott's disease of the spine has also been rioted in a bronze statuette of ancient Egypt. In a bust of Alexander the Great in his fatal illness, Sir Berkley Moynihan recognised evidences of cercbro-spirial fever. Achondroplasia and rickets are portrayed in the mural paintings of Pompeii and Hcrculancum. The portrait of Ferdinand I., Emperor of Germany, painted in 1521 by Lucas van Leydcn, shows the adenoid facies, although it was only in 1868 that Wilhelm Meyer of Copenhagen made adenoids known to the medical profession. Hystero-epilepsy has been identified in Raphael's pictures, and Charcot and Richer identified hysteria major and hystero-epilepsy in the engravings of the famous epidemic dancing mania which was prevalent in the Rhine provinces from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Similarly, these authors figured a number of old pictures showing plague victims with buboes, and among them Saint Roch, the patron saint of the disease.

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    Historical Aspects of Disease1. Nature 120, 194–195 (1927) doi:10.1038/120194a0

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