Health and Medicine
The First Botanist
The first royal Professor of Botany was John Bray, who was confirmed in a pension of 100s. a year by Richard II in acknowledgement of his knowledge and skill with plants. He wrote 'Synonyma de nominibus herbarum,' which was a list of herbs in Latin, French, and English. This manuscript is now housed in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum.
While the dissection of the human body was frowned upon (although still carried out infrequently) in medieval times, it is thought that the first legal forensic autopsy for the purpose of determining the cause of death for legal purposes, took place in Bologna in 1302.
Blood-letting was seen as a way of purging ‘bad humour’ from the body and was carried out at certain points in the year. Religious houses were especially strict on when this should be done and what should be allowed afterwards. Monks were often given egg dishes and herbs such as sage and parsley washed in salt and water to help recovery.
The Origin of 'Drug'
Our modern word ‘drug’ may derive from the Anglo-Saxon verb ‘driggen’, which means to dry. This goes back to the days when many medicines came from plants, which needed to be dried in order to be stored. Another possibility is that came from a Persian word ‘droa’, meaning aromatic.
Female Surgeons Were a Thing
In medieval medicine, women are generally thought to only have roles as midwives and as village healers. However, at least 24 women were described as surgeons in Naples between 1273 and 1410. And in Frankfurt, between 1387 and 1497, at least 15 women are mentioned as practicing medicine (opposed to just midwifery). One of the most famous women medical practitioners was Trotula of Salerno, whose text on gynecological conditions can still be bought today.
I Bet This Worked... But For Other Reasons
How's this for a medieval birth control method? According to the Trotula, a male weasel's testicles needed to be obtained and then the weasel was to be let loose, still alive. The woman then needed to take the testicles, tie them in goose skin, and carry them next to her bosom!