Has your grandmother ever suggested that you treat your winter-chapped hands by urinating on them and rubbing vigorously for five? Or maybe your grandpa told you how he used to go to the local apothecary shop and buy leeches to bring down the swelling of a black eye or sprained ankle? Although these suggestions or stories might sound strange, they may actually work! Our ancestors knew more about medical treatments than you might realise.
Early Nose Jobs
You wouldn’t be alone if you thought plastic surgery was a phenomenon of recent times. To prove it’s not, we’ve dug out these fascinating images from Europeana to highlight the long history of cosmetic surgery.
Reconstructive surgery techniques were being carried out in India by 800 BC. Sushruta, the father of surgery, made important contributions to the field of plastic and cataract surgery in the 6th century BC. The ancient Egyptians and Romans also performed cosmetic surgery. The first American plastic surgeon was John Peter Mettauer, who, in 1827, performed the first cleft palate operation with instruments that he designed himself. In 1845, Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach wrote a comprehensive text on rhinoplasty (nose jobs), entitled Operative Chirurgie, and introduced the concept of reoperation to improve the cosmetic appearance of the reconstructed nose.
Medical Marvels - A 'Duchenne' Smile
These pictures aren’t just photos of people pulling funny faces, they are the result of an experiment by one of the fathers of neuroscience: Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne. Influenced by the fashionable beliefs of physiognomy in the 19th century, Duchenne wanted to determine how the muscles in the human face produce facial expressions. He believed a person’s facial expressions were linked to their very soul.
Duchenne is particularly known for the way he triggered muscular contractions with electrical probes, recording the resulting distorted and often grotesque expressions with the recently invented camera. He published his findings in 1862, together with extraordinary photographs of the induced expressions, in the book The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy.
Medical Marvels - Medical Advertisement
Advertising is often seen as a dirty word, it’s an industry now strictly regulated and often surrounded by controversy. However it hasn’t always been that way. As global economies rapidly expanded during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advertising grew alongside – with little to no rules or regulations, as you’ll see from these ads.
At the turn of the 20th century, advertising had a positive impact for women - with limited career choices in business, advertising was one industry that welcomed them. Since women were responsible for most of the purchasing done in their households, advertisers and agencies recognised the value of women’s insight during the creative process.
Many of the advertisements are works of art in their own right, using early graphic design techniques producing stunning hand-drawn and painted prints.
A Day at the Hospital
Going to the hospital often gives people mixed emotions. In the early days of medicine especially, people weren’t very keen on going to the doctor. But by the turn of the 20th century, the role and public image of the hospital was changing. A number of developments made hospitals less unpleasant for patients.
The discovery of anaesthesia in the 1840s made patients more willing to undergo operations and reduced the risk of dying of shock during surgery. However, anaesthesia did not dramatically improve the prognosis for the patient. Hospitals were still often unhygienic, which caused a high rate of post-operative infections.
From the 1860s, antisepsis (use of antiseptic substances such as carbolic acid) and asepsis (exclusion of bacteria and viruses) were used during operations. Sterile hospital environments made operations safer for patients.