Saturday, April 8, 2017

G for Gynecologist, Leoparda: Female Scientists Before Our Time

Think back to 4th Century BC, to the time of Roman Emperor Gratian (359-383). His rule extended across the entire Roman empire. He would later be known for his suppression of paganism and the spread of Nicene Christianity. 

Leoparda was a respected gynecologist in Gratian’s royal court, and we can assume she felt honored to serve her emperor in this capacity, in a field of medicine she had studied and knew well. But alas, she was a woman after all, in a time when a woman's intelligence was questioned and generally considered inferior. It was recorded that her remedies were “no more scientific that those in the Greek Dioscorides,” an ancient Greek encyclopedia that referenced the use of herbal medicine and similar. Of course, today we recognize the value of herbal medicine and alternative treatments. Perhaps, too, criticism of Leoparda's methods had more to do with Gratian’s two wives who wanted children but remained childless.
What do you think? 
 
Ancient Roman relief carving of a midwife.




Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratian; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leoparda; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedanius_Dioscorides

22 comments:

  1. Hi Sharon - she was a brave woman, but obviously knew her stuff and being a woman would understand her body, better than the men. Yet of course power and jealousy could ruin people ... not helped by the wives remaining childless ... another great scientist - cheers Hilary

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    1. I'm sure it was more complicated than we'll ever know. That's life, but she made a name for herself and here she is today :)

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  2. I suppose we women have much to be thanful for to this lady. She paved the way for modern techology but all the same a brave lady.

    Yvonne.

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    1. I imagine there were younger women who dreamed of following in her footsteps@!

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  3. I am impressed wtih the number of women you have highlighted whom I've not known. What source are you using?

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    1. I'm surprised I found as much as I did. It was a concern when I started out :) I used wiki as a start and went from there. There are a number of academic sources and books online. The internet has become a vast library. Lacking that, I could only rely on what was on wiki or other blogs. I list sources at the bottom.

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  4. I would think women who didn't want to show their bodies to men would be pleased to have a woman to do it(hence Agnodice).

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    1. I'm sure you are right. It's the same today!

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    1. I wanted to do the meanings of names too, but ran out of time. Hers is quite different!

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  6. Interesting - I guess Gratian's other wives hoped she would be able to cure them of their infertility ..

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    1. That's the assumption :) With limited information, we can only speculate!

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  7. I wonder to what extent her name reflected her personality? Leoparda... leopard...

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    1. Hmm...It's not the prettiest of names.

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  8. Women have been treated so dreadfully over the ages, especially midwives and herbalists. The term "witch" was too often employed by men who wanted to take away a woman's power in the community (and sometimes her life). Sorry Leoparda wasn't given her due. And believe me, there are still men today--more than you'd think or who'd admit it--who question female intelligence and generally consider it inferior. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Oh, I believe it. I still run into them or hear from others. Fortunately the men I know personally are loving, kind and respectful. One of the women in this series was tortured to death. It was horrible. Check out W for Witchcraft and Hypatia.

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  9. For centuries women's entire worth has been linked to their being able to produce a child. I can imagine that Leoparda's fate depended on whether she could cure the Emperor's wives' infertility. So unfair!

    I mean, Anne Boleyn would have been the last wife of Henry Viii probably, if she had produced a male heir or heirs...didn't know about Leoparda, thanks for the post!

    Nilanjana
    Madly-in-Verse

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  10. I read a book many years ago, written by a man, trying to explain the thinking of men. I still remember a chapter on why men have problems accepting women and the author suggested that it was 'jealousy'. Women can do something men can never do - produce a child.

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    1. Hmm...jealousy could be part of it. But why, I wonder. Men are different, and just as gifted and talented.

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  11. This woman should be famous regardless why she was hired. She did her utmost to help and learn which must have been most difficult since women were considered less than a dog even

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    1. I bet the women at least loved and appreciated her a lot!

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