By Jonathan Reinarz and Kevin Siena (eds)
Ailments affecting the outside have tended to impress a reaction of specific horror in society. With visible and infrequently repellant outward symptoms of illness, they have been usually seemed 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 this day. This number of essays makes use of case reports to chart the scientific background of pores and skin from the eighteenth to the 20th century.
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Extra info for A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface
8 The concern was thus not primarily about people’s suffering, but also about the state’s need for able bodies, as many were transformed from sturdy contributors to feeble dependents. It was when physicians like Nicolaus Arbo concentrated on radesyge that they first assumed a central role in hospital management, making this disease an important one for the history of the medicalization of Norwegian hospitals. 10 The largest of these was the hospital in Bratsberg, where Hans and John had been treated.
More than one thousand years earlier, Galen had claimed that in addition to the discernible sweat, an insensible perspiration was continuously emitted from the body. Sanctorius tried to measure the insensible perspiration by weighing himself, his intake of food and drink, and his waste products over the course of thirty years. He concluded that more than half his normal weight loss arose from insensible perspiration through the pores of the skin. 22 Such theories were vital to early medical thinking on skin diseases, as evidenced by their roles in early formulations of the itch and pellagra analysed elsewhere in this volume.
The initial question was how a wound to the skin naturally heals; according to eighteenth-century surgeons, there were three stages involved. The first was called digestion, and to quote Clare from his 1779 treatise on skin ailments, ‘digestion involved the formation of a quantity of good pus on the surface’;18 he addressed good and bad pus later in the 20 A Medical History of Skin chapter. 21 This was the formation of a hard dry scab on the wound. Anatomical and physiological descriptions of the skin were limited in lecture and in print.