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The Dance of Death and the first printed skeleton

The earliest printed image of a human skeleton is this cartoonish image from a German block book from the 1450s. [i] It is one of a series of skeletons in the popular genre known as the danse macabre or dance of death. Art historian extraordinaire Jack Hartnell first told me about this book.  It is now …

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The Head of a Roman

For the past few weeks, many news outlets have reported that the skull of Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, ca. 23-79 CE), the Roman naturalist and statesman who died at Pompeii, has been identified.  The latest story, in the New York Times, expresses some skepticism but admits the skull could have been Pliny’s. To …

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Interview with the ASECS Grad Caucus

I've been a member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) for over thirty years.  I was recently interviewed for the ASECS Graduate Caucus website.  Here's the link: https://asecsgradcaucus.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/interview-with-dr-anita-guerrini-2018-pfizer-prize-winner-for-the-courtiers-anatomists/ 

An Anatomy Cabinet

Utrecht, Netherlands, July 2019 Among the many delights for a historian of medicine like me at the University Museum in Utrecht is a reconstructed anatomy cabinet from the late eighteenth century.  It contains objects from the collection of Jan Bleuland (1756-1838), professor of medicine and "rector magnificus" of the University.  Domenico Bertoloni Meli discussed Bleuland …

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Instructions for a voyage, 1609

A few weeks ago I looked at some manuscripts of the French intellectual and antiquarian Nicolas-Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) at the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France.  I describe Peiresc as an “intellectual”; he was one of those universal scholars we find in early modern Europe who were interested in everything.  Peiresc’s fame, such as it …

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The Possibility of Giants

Various large bones, discovered across Europe from around 1500 onward, raised the possibility among Renaissance naturalists and intellectuals that very large humans – some five or even ten meters tall – once existed in the past.  The idea of giant ancestors already was prominent among scholars: the hugely popular works of Annius of Viterbo, particularly …

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The Nun with Blue Teeth

I’m always looking for skeleton stories.  But it’s not often that I come across an article in the scientific literature that includes references to the ancient Greek physician and herbalist Dioscorides (ca. 40-90 CE) or the medieval abbess and scholar St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).  So this open-access article in Science Advances, “Medieval women’s early …

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Anita’s famous tomato chutney

By popular demand, here is the recipe for my famous tomato chutney.  It is somewhat modified from Madhur Jaffrey, An Invitation to Indian Cooking: Sweet and spicy tomato chutney 1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (yes, a whole head) a piece of fresh ginger, 2 in long, 1 in thick, 1 in wide, …

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The Cats of Praia Vermelha

For the past week, I've been at the International Congress for the History of Science and Technology, held at the Praia Vermelha ("red beach") campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  There are a lot of cats on the campus.  I don't know their background; they seem to be strays, but are well …

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Wellcome Trust Research Bursaries

An excellent opportunity to do research in a rich Edinburgh archive.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) Library and Archive

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The Wellcome Trust have recently introduced a Research Bursaries scheme to support researchers wishing to work on library or archive collections which have been catalogued and preserved through a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Library and Archive at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) is therefore inviting academic researchers, conservators, artists, performers, broadcasters, writers and public engagement practitioners to explore and use our collections, many of which remain unexplored. Our historical collections covering anatomy, surgery, medicine and pathology represent a unique resource dating from the early 16th century. The Research Bursaries are for small and medium-scale research projects (they need not be historically grounded) with support available in the range of £5,000-£25,000. You can see details of the funding stream, including applicant eligibility, here

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is one of the oldest surgical corporations in the world.  Its story begins in the late 1400s when the roles of surgeons and barbers…

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