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Posted in Ancient History, Historical articles, History, Medicine, Plants on Friday, 17 May 2013
This edited article about vegetables originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 258 published on 24 December 1966.
Feeding lettuce to the rabbits
We do not know how old this plant is, although most authorities agree that it has been cultivated in Europe since the earliest times. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew it, and it was served at the royal tables in Persia over 500 years before the Christian era. The Moors were very fond of lettuce and developed many types, among them the Romaine. Lettuce was esteemed highly by the Greeks also and it is said that a famous Greek philosopher even irrigated his growing plants with wine, to produce a distinctive flavour.
Lettuce has had a somewhat stormy history. It once caused the death of a queen and was responsible for great honours being paid to a slave. The queen, whose unfortunate end came about indirectly because of it, was the wife of Cambyses, the son of Cyprus The Great. Cambyses murdered his brother, and then forced his sister to marry him. One evening, when they were dining together, the queen stripped a head of lettuce of its leaves and the king remarked that it was not as beautiful as it had been.
“It is the same with our family,” replied the queen, “since you cut off a precious shoot.”
King Cambyses never forgave her this indiscreet remark and later had her executed.
The slave’s story had a much happier ending. Augustus, the Emperor of Rome from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14 was gravely ill and the royal physician Musa, who had once been a slave, put him on a diet of lettuce. The Emperor recovered and for this great service Musa received not only a large sum of money, but permission to wear a gold ring, a privilege usually reserved only for aristocrats. But even greater honours were to come to him, all due to the humble lettuce. When the news spread around Rome and the citizens realised that they owed the life of their Emperor to the skill of Musa, they took up a popular subscription and erected a statue in his honour.
Do you wonder that lettuce leaves have a tendency to curl a bit scornfully at the edges? They are probably shrinking away from other vegetables, who have never been responsible for the death of a queen, or the honouring of a slave!
Like all plants, at one time or another in their history, the lettuce was considered to have great medicinal value. According to old writers, it was an antidote against the bite of a scorpion or any poisonous spider and was also prescribed for diseases of the spleen and as a cure for insomnia. King George I of England once sent his royal courier to Holland to procure a special lettuce for his ailing queen. History fails to tell us whether it cured the lady, but we hope so. Having caused the death of one queen, the lettuce should certainly have tried to atone by curing this one.
Posted in British Towns, Geology, Historical articles, History, Leisure, Medicine on Wednesday, 15 May 2013
This edited article about spa towns originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 256 published on 10 December 1966.
“One [o'clock] in the afternoon. Called for my flowered handkerchief. Worked half a violet in it. Eyes ached and head out of order. Threw by my work . . .” (Mr. Addison – The Spectator no. 323.)
Many such as these would come to ‘drink the waters’ at a spa in order to while away part of the year in a congenial social atmosphere under the pretext of the pursuit of health.
Spas like Bath were so popular at this time that the merits of their medicinal waters were remembered in the summer months when the rigours of London society began to pall. “The city of Bath” remarked Oliver Goldsmith, “by such assiduity, soon became the theatre of summer amusements for all people of fashion . . . Upon a stranger’s arrival at Bath, he is welcomed by a peal of the Abbey bells, and in the next place, by the voice and music of the city waits. For these civilities, the ringers have generally a present made to them of half-a-guinea, and the waits of half-a-crown, or more, in proportion to the person’s fortune, generosity, or ostentation.”
Society in Bath was organised by Beau Nash – “a man,” said Oliver Goldsmith, “who for 50 years presided over the pleasures of a polite kingdom” – and Bath was organised for Society. Its brilliance and gaiety revolved around the healthful springs.
Few of the wilting social ‘flowers’ who fortified themselves for the giddy round of frivolity with mineral water, can have known to whom they owed the fortunate and fashionable practice.
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Posted in Historical articles, Medicine on Monday, 13 May 2013
This edited article about medicine originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 253 published on 19 November 1966.
Doctor Wendy Carnegie edged her Land-Rover through the swirling, raging flood waters of Ludhiana in northern India.
For days the rain had grown steadily fiercer and reports which had reached New Delhi, where the doctor had started her journey to Ludhiana, confirmed that many villages had been wiped out. Typhoid was feared and medical equipment was in short supply.
Dr. Carnegie knew that Ludhiana had a Christian medical college run by a small and dynamic woman doctor named Snow.
But how on earth could students cope with a flood disaster? Obviously, fully qualified help would be invaluable. Dr. Carnegie knew that at all costs she must get through.
A few months before early in 1953, Wendy Carnegie had a thriving practice in London. She could have lived in comfort, but she had always been interested in the impact of modern medicine on primitive man.
She reasoned that most people could enjoy the services of a doctor in a big place like London, but in many poor corners of the world medicine was unknown and often regarded with deep suspicion.
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Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Medicine, Scotland, War on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about Arthur Conan Doyle originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 251 published on 5 November 1966.
Arthur Conan Doyle served as a surgeon during the Boer War by Roger Payne
Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in May 1859 and died, after a long eventful life, in July 1930. During his lifetime he produced an amazing number of books, covering a wide variety of subjects and characters and establishing him as a popular International author.
Arthur Conan Doyle came from a well-known family of artists. He was educated at Stonyhurst and later at Edinburgh University where he studied medicine, graduating M.B. in 1881.
It was while he was in medical practice in Southsea that Conan Doyle published his first book, ‘A Study in Scarlet’, in which he introduced to the public the debonair Sherlock Holmes who, with his worthy friend and companion Dr. Watson, was to become the leading figure in detective fiction.
Sherlock Holmes depended on careful, systematic examination of minute details and a logical process of deduction from the points observed to solve the crimes that baffled everyone else. It is said that his creator modelled his methods on an eminent surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bell, who had continually impressed upon his students the necessity, during diagnosis, of closely observing all the given facts and then making an intelligent interpretation of them.
Conan Doyle’s own life was as active and virile as the stories he wrote. He was a good cricketer and general sportsman, especially keen on boxing – bringing the sport into one of his best novels, ‘Rodney Stone’. He was a real-life detective whose advice was frequently sought by the police, and a champion of those whom he believed to have been wrongfully convicted – against strong police opinion, he proved one man innocent and saved him from a life sentence.
Besides detective stories, Conan Doyle wrote sporting novels, poems, pirate and adventure yarns, histories of the Boer War, plays, imaginative works, such as ‘The Lost World’, and historical romances. He was a great stickler for detail. Before writing ‘Sir Nigel’ he read over sixty books dealing with heraldry, armour, falconry, the medieval habits of the peasants of that time and the social customs of the aristocracy too. Only when he was sure that he knew those times as if he had lived in them did he start to write; and in describing the adventurous life of Sir Nigel, the perfect knight, he gave a brilliant, exciting description of that chivalrous period of English history.
Conan Doyle was a patriot. During the South African War of 1899-1902 he acted as senior physician to a field hospital, and he played an important part in the First World War. He was interested in all aspects of life and death. Spiritualism fascinated him, and during his last years he became a lecturer on psychic matters. Everything he did was tackled with enthusiasm and vigour, and this fact shines out from his books as a fitting memorial.
Posted in Ancient History, Historical articles, History, Medicine, Plants, Religion, Superstition on Friday, 10 May 2013
This edited article about vegetables originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 250 published on 29 October 1966.
Pythagoras taught his followers that the spirits of the dead lived again in the bean, by J Armet
In the ancient world, some vegetables were gods, but beans were hated as if they were devils, and even to pronounce their name was forbidden to holy folk. It is almost certain that the species of bean singled out for distrust was our field bean, a close relative of the broad bean, because this has a black spot which aroused alarm, and botanists agree that it is one of the oldest of all vegetables.
The Hebrews knew the field bean 1,000 years before the birth of Christ; it is spoken of in Homer’s Iliad, and specimens of it have been found in the excavations of Troy and in the Lake Dwellings of Switzerland. This means they must have existed in that country around the Bronze Age.
Exactly where the bean’s birthplace was is not known. Some botanists say Asia, others northern Africa, and still others that it came from some region south of the Caspian Sea.
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Posted in Ancient History, Historical articles, Magic, Medicine, Nature, Plants, Superstition on Thursday, 9 May 2013
This edited article about vegetables originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 248 published on 15 October 1966.
The Temple of Apollo where golden radishes were offered to the Greek god, by Ruggero Giovannini
Everyone knows that radishes are good to eat, but did you also know that they have the power to warn you if a witch should happen to be hiding in your chimney? We had never suspected it, until we read this sentence in an old English book: “a wild radish, uprooted with the proper incantations, has the power of revealing the whereabouts of witches.” Unfortunately, the author forgot to add “the proper incantations”. Very annoying, as we have always wanted to see a witch!
From another book, written about the same period, we learned that wearing a garland of flowering radish around one’s neck, would repel demons. Odd that the flowers should drive them away and a ripe radish tempt them out of their hiding places!
Although the radish has been cultivated for well over 4,000 years, its appearance has changed very little. Botanists do not agree on its native land. Some say China, while others insist on Western Asia as its birthplace.
They were cultivated in Egypt at the time of the earliest Pharaohs and esteemed highly because of the abundance of oil in the root. A variety of radish is cultivated today by the Egyptians for that very purpose.
Greece, however, gave radishes their highest honours. One Greek philosopher wrote an entire book about them and in their offerings to Apollo, the Greeks again demonstrated how highly the radish was regarded. It was their custom to present these gifts in the form of carvings, the metal chosen representing their ideas of the value of the plant. Turnips, for instance, were carved out of lead, beets from silver, but pure gold was chosen for the radish.
Few vegetables have had more extravagant claims made for their curative powers than this one. In fact, reading the long list, the radish seems to be able to cure almost every illness in life, the only drawback being that it was considered bad for the teeth. One physician wrote that you could handle poisonous serpents and scorpions safely, if you took the precaution of first rubbing your hands with radish juice, while another actually wrote that if you merely dipped a radish in a glass of poison, you could drink it and go happily away. We sincerely hope that none of his patients tried it.
A very charming legend about the radish has come down to us from Germany. The soul of the radish, so they said, was an evil spirit named Rubezahl, with a bad habit of taking what he wanted, regardless of other people’s rights. Rubezahl fell in love with a princess, kidnapped her and shut her away in a great tower, surrounded by miles of woods. The poor princess was very lonely and frightened and grew so thin and pale that Rubezahl worried for fear she would die. So he touched a radish with his magic wand and turned it into a cricket, first warning the princess that when the leaves of the radish began to wither, the cricket would die. The princess asked the cricket to find her lover and bring him to rescue her, so the cricket set out, chirping loudly as he hopped. Unfortunately, he could not find her lover before he died, but as he told every cricket he met and they told their friends, the story still lives. If you listen closely on a summer evening to the cricket’s song, you will hear all about the plight of the poor princess and the wicked radish, Rubezahl.
Posted in Historical articles, Medicine, Plants, Superstition on Thursday, 9 May 2013
This edited article about garlic originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 247 published on 8 October 1966.
A string of garlic hanging in the kitchen of a fairytale Princess by Ron Embleton
In Egypt, the garlic was numbered among their deities and the Egyptians swore their most solemn oaths on the plant. Being a practical people, they ate it as well. The Great Pyramid of Cheops has an inscription on its base, giving the amount expended for garlic, onions and radishes to feed the labourers who built it.
The garlic and the onion are about the same age. Both are known to have been cultivated for over 4,000 years, but their birthplaces seem to be in doubt. They probably came from Asia, although botanists point out that garlic was widespread along the Mediterranean from the earliest times.
Garlic was a common food for Roman soldiers, sailors and field labourers as it was believed to make them fearless and strong. It was also plentiful and cheap. The Romans even used it to suppress their crime wave! When a criminal wished to be absolved from his crimes and the evil in him driven out, he was fed garlic as a purifying agent. History fails to give the prescribed quantity, or to say whether the cure was always successful.
In spite of the respect paid by the Romans to the virtues of garlic, they do not seem to have liked its odour any better than we do today. No one who had eaten it recently was allowed to enter the temple, dedicated to Cybele, the mother of all the gods.
According to ancient writers – Egyptian, Greek and Roman – the medicinal uses of garlic were many and fantastic, but the writers usually specified that the plant must have been sown when the moon was in the right position. One claim was that three cloves of garlic, beaten up in vinegar, would cure the worst toothache – or you could put bits of it in the cavity. It was also recommended as a cure for a cough and as a tonic.
Even today, many European peasants esteem the medicinal virtues of garlic highly, and in Ireland, where it is called ‘The Devil’s Posy’, there are persons who still believe that it will cure rheumatism, and that a wreath of garlic flowers around your neck will keep evil spirits away.
Strange how superstition clings! An English writer, around the end of the 1500s, asserted that a miner should always put a small piece of garlic in his pocket to defend him against the assaults of evil spirits lurking underground. In this, of course, he was only repeating the old Roman belief that the plant had the power to drive out devils and purify a criminal.
Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Medicine on Thursday, 2 May 2013
This edited article about Laura Bridgman originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 239 published on 13 August 1966.
Helen Keller, whose teacher was a student of Dr Howe’s system
When novelist Charles Dickens first saw young Laura Bridgman she was “seated in a small enclosure, made by school desks and forms, writing her daily journal.” He was captivated by her face, which he said was “radiant with pleasure”, and could not resist the appeal of “this gentle, tender, guileless, grateful-hearted being”.
Dickens met Laura in 1842, when he visited the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts. The great writer was touring the United States gathering material for his American Notes, and went to the institute – the first of its kind in America – “one very fine winter morning”. The clear air and the brightness of the sky made Dickens feel “a kind of sorrow that the place should be so very light” and that none of the children could share in his pleasure.
Dickens asked the director, Dr. Samuel Howe, all about Laura, and whether she would ever be able to see or hear again. The story he was told impressed the novelist so much that he later wrote that there was no one alive who could not “learn healthy cheerfulness, and mild contentment, from . . . this sightless, earless, voiceless child . . .”
Laura Bridgman was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A., on 21st December, 1829. She was two and was just starting to say her first words when she was severely stricken with scarlet fever.
For five painful months she lay in a cradle in a darkened room, hovering between life and death. She gradually recovered and, after a year, was able to walk unaided. But the illness had taken its toll, and by the time she was four and fit to mix with other children again, she could neither see, hear nor speak.
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Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Medicine, World War 1 on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
This edited article about Hugh Walpole originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 236 published on 23 July 1966.
Sir Hugh Walpole based one of his books on his experiences during the First World War when he tended wounded soldiers for the Red Cross in Russia, by Frank Lea
Sir Hugh Walpole believed that we have two sides to our natures, one good and one evil, and that they are continually fighting each other. This struggle provides the theme for much of his writing, and earned him a reputation as one of the foremost novelists between the two World Wars.
But he wrote many happier books – his family sagas, childhood stories, and a series of novels set in Cornwall helped to add to his wide popularity.
Hugh Walpole was born at Auckland, New Zealand, in 1884, the son of a clergyman who later became Bishop of Edinburgh. When he was five, he sailed with the rest of his family to England, which was to become his true home. He did not enjoy school very much, and it was not until he went to Cambridge that he really settled down in England.
After a short, unhappy spell as a schoolmaster, he worked as a book reviewer, and in 1909 published his first novel, The Wooden Horse, a story of a Cornish family. He quickly followed this with Maradick at Forty, and Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill, a novel about two schoolmasters, which attracted much attention.
His service with the Red Cross in Russia during the First World War gave him the material for two impressive novels, The Dark Forest, and The Secret City. Then, in 1919, he published Jeremy, the first of three books about childhood, which became very popular.
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Posted in Animals, Farming, Historical articles, History, Medicine on Wednesday, 17 April 2013
This edited article about Edward Jenner originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 227 published on 21 May 1966.
Edward Jenner inoculating a child
For nearly two thousand years, smallpox was one of the major scourges of mankind. Today there are fewer than a dozen cases a year in Britain, and these seldom prove fatal.
It was a chance remark by a milkmaid that put Edward Jenner, born on May 17, 1749, on the track of his great discovery that people could be vaccinated against smallpox. While he was serving his medical apprenticeship, Jenner was consulted by a milkmaid about some spots on her skin: “It is not smallpox, that I do know, because I have had cowpox,” the girl told him. This made Jenner remember the tradition in his native county of Gloucestershire that people who had contracted cowpox from milking cows suffering from the disease were afterwards immune against smallpox.
In 1775, Jenner began a careful study of the relationship between animal cowpox and human smallpox. After experimenting on animals, he discovered that, if he took vaccine or extract from a cowpox sore and injected it into a human being, that person would be protected or vaccinated against smallpox.
In 1796, he inoculated his first human patient, a young boy, with matter taken from the hand of a milkmaid suffering from cowpox. Some days later, he inoculated the boy with smallpox germs. As the doctor anticipated, the boy did not develop smallpox. Inoculation with cowpox virus had produced a definite degree of protection against smallpox.
The principle behind Jenner’s vaccination is still the same today, although the method is more simple and effective. When Jenner died in 1823, smallpox was almost wiped out in civilized countries.