Monday, 30 January 2012

Ancient Surgery

The Egyptians did have some knowledge of anatomy from making mummies. To embalm a dead body they first removed the principal organs, which would otherwise rot.

However Egyptian surgery was limited to such things as treating wounds and broken bones and dealing with boils and abscesses. The Egyptians used clamps, sutures and cauterisation. They had surgical instruments like probes, saws, forceps, scalpels and scissors.

They also knew that honey helped to prevent wounds becoming infected. (It is a natural antiseptic). They also dressed wounds with willow bark, which has the same effect.

The Ancient Greeks bathed wounds with wine. (The alcohol helped to prevent infection).

In the Roman Empire techniques of surgery were dominated by the ideas of Galen. He was interested in anatomy. Unfortunately by his time dissecting human bodies was forbidden. So Galen had to dissect animal bodies including apes. However animal bodies are not the same as human bodies and so some of Galen's ideas were quite wrong. Unfortunately Galen was a very influential writer. For centuries his writings dominated medicine. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What the Poles did for us

What did the Poles do for us? 10% of the pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain were Polish and the Polish resistance gathered vital info about the German V1 flying bomb. Polish soldiers fought the Nazis in North Africa, Italy and France. The composers Chopin and Paderewski were Poles. So were the great astronomer Copernicus and the scientist Marie Curie. In 1923 a Pole named Leo Gerstenzang invented cotton swabs (cotton buds).

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Medieval Towns

In the Middle Ages most people lived in the countryside and made a living from farming. However at the time of the Domesday Book (1086) about 10% of the population of England lived in towns. Moreover trade boomed in the following two centuries and many new towns were founded.

The first thing that would surprise us about those towns would be their small size. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 London had a population of about 18,000. By the 14th century it rose to about 45,000. Other towns were much smaller. York may have had a population of about 13,000 by 1400 but it then fell to about 10,000 by 1500. Most towns had between 2,000 and 5,000 inhabitants.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

20th century newspapers

In the 20th century newspapers became still more common. The Daily Mail was first published in 1896, The Daily Express was first published in 1900 and the Daily Mirror began publication in 1903.

In 1964 The Daily Herald became The Sun and The Daily Star was founded in 1978. Meanwhile The Sunday Telegraph was founded in 1961 and in 1962 The Sunday Times became the first newspaper to publish a Sunday colour supplement. The Mail on Sunday began in 1982. The Independent was first published in 1986. Also in 1986 Today became the first colour newspaper in Britain.