By Jonathan Reinarz and Kevin Siena (eds)
Ailments affecting the outside have tended to impress a reaction of specific horror in society. With noticeable and occasionally repellant outward indicators of illness, they have been usually appeared to be hugely contagious, in addition to synonymous with immorality. Such connotations can have stemmed from the tell-tale buboes of syphilis, however the social stigma of disfigurement is anything that also exists at the present time. This selection of essays makes use of case experiences to chart the clinical heritage of dermis from the eighteenth to the 20 th century.
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Additional info for A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface
John received Ethiopian pills, a decoction of sarsaparilla root and sassafras, juniper and china bark. The treatment had a striking effect. Two – 31 – 32 A Medical History of Skin months later both patients were declared ‘happily cured’. They resumed their usual work and were ‘thereby once more included in the community’. The case of Hans and John is from the early history of radesyge in Norway, which emerged as a public threat from the late 1760s. The disease was particularly prevalent in the south-western part of the country, but was increasingly found in other areas.
Now the disease was actually located in a new organ, the skin. In eighteenth-century radesyge texts, the skin was a sheet surrounding the body. Now it had become layered and thickened significantly. As a consequence this new disease also lost any association with fluids inside the body, the poor living conditions of the Norwegian peasantry, the hard work at sea and the eating habits of the common people.
13 Many of the surgical cases in mid- to late eighteenth-century London came to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, one of the English capital’s seven teaching hospitals. Patients there often came under the care of Percivall Pott (1714–1788), considered by his peers to be the best practical surgeon of his day. 14 Despite the nauseating nature of the work, Pott credited his early training in cutting up rancid human body parts to make Nourse’s teaching specimens with giving him the dexterity – and the strong stomach – that a surgeon needed.