Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U for Unusual: Female Scientists Before Our Time



  •  Trepanation – drilling holes in the skull to cure various ailments; some believed to release evil spirits. Perhaps the oldest surgery in history, dating back to 6500 BC. 
The Extraction of the Stone of Madness
-Hieronymus Bosch painting

  • Sickness – ancient Egyptians considered it a punishment sent by the gods; or an attack by angered ghost or demon.
  • Mercury for health – ancient Persians, Greeks and Chinese used it for health, as a common elixir and topical medicine; death from liver and kidney damage was common when ingested. 
  • Bloodletting – withdrawal of blood to cure or prevent disease. A practice dating back to Egypt 1000 BC.
Ancient Greek painting on a vase, showing 
a physician (iatros) bleeding a patient
  • Animal Dung Ointments – all types of dung, a cure-all for disease and injury. Ancient Egyptians swore by it. Might have had some antibiotic benefit. 
  • Cannibal Cures – “corpse medicine” from ground-up mummies, human flesh, blood, or bone and believed to be magical. Practiced by Romans and the English. Thought to cure headaches, ulcers, epilepsy, etc. Practice lasted for years. 
  • Wandering Womb – ancient Greeks believed the womb was a separate creature. Had a mind of its own and could escape from the body and have a ‘walk-a-bout’. Women were told to marry young and bear lots of children to prevent.
  • Hernia cures for infants – have one small green lizard bite the child! Then hang the lizard up over smoke until it dies. 
  • Infant’s first words – If the baby says “ny” it will live. If the baby says “mebi” it will die. Belief dates back to 1550 BC.



  1. Hi Sharon - what an incredible set of Unusual facts ... so much fun (well at least in the 21st C) to read up ... crazy - but that was life back then ...

    I wrote about the Prosthetic Nose for Tycho Brahe ... and then found an interesting article on the history of prostheses through the eras - it was Italian but has been translated ... see the post on Tycho ...

    Absolutely amazing set of thoughts here ... cheers Hilary


  2. Boy, history sure can be interesting. Those bored with history just don't know where to look...or give up too soon. But then...I remember a history teacher in school who actually fell asleep during his lecture, so I understand. Thanks, Hilary!

  3. Blood letting was used to good effect in the early days for a number of ailments as well the use of leeches to good effect. I first read 'cannibis cures' and was quite impressed - until i read cannibal ... :( Thanks Sharon, most unusual!

  4. These do not sound very much fun!

    M : )

  5. Lobotomy ancient style! If the person was "crazy" and abusive and then seemed placid and docile they probably thought it worked just like doctors thought it did in the 40's and 50's. bloodletting still happens today which makes me shake my head. Animal poop?? No thanks.

  6. And I bet this was the tip of the iceberg too, but you have to admire their inventiveness...and some remedies may have have worked!


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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.