Episode 32: The Humors


 

The Four Humors are probably the longest-lasting idea in the history of medicine, even though they’ve been more or less completely abandoned for the past century or so. In this episode, we’ll explore how the ancient Greek idea of disease coming from imbalances in body fluids touched every aspect of medicine for two millennia, well into the modern era. And we’ll discuss how humoral explanations likely hampered adoption of the first clinical trial in history, James Lind’s famous scurvy study. Plus we have a brand new #AdamAnswers about germ theory. Listen to all this and more in Episode 32 of Bedside Rounds, a tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine!

Sources:

  • Arikha N, Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humors. 2007.
  • Baron JH, “Sailors’ scurvy before and after James Lind–a reassessment,” Nutr Rev. 2009 Jun;67(6):315-32.
  • Bartholomew M, “James Lind and scurvy: a revaluation,” Journal for Maritime Research. Published online: 08 Feb 2011.
  • Lind J. A Treatise of the Scurvy in Three Parts. Containing an Inquiry into the Nature, Causes and Cure of that Disease, together with a Critical and Chronological View of what has been published on the subject. London: Miller, 1753
  • NLM’s Turning the Pages on the Edwin Smith Papyrus (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/news/turn_page_egyptian.html)
  • Nutton V, Ancient Medicine.
  • Nutton V, “The Fatal Embrace: Galen and the History of Ancient Medicine”. Science in Context 18(1), 111–121 (2005).
  • Shoja MM et al, “Wrong theories on the origin of blood vessels: Polybus and De Natura Hominis.” Int J Cardiol. 2008 Jun 6;126(3):313-5.
  • Sutton G, “Putrid gums and ‘dead men’s cloaths’: James Lind aboard the Salisbury.” J R Soc Med. 2003 Dec;96(12):605-8.
  • Trohler U, “Lind and Scurvy: 1747-1795,” J R Soc Med. 2005 Nov; 98(11): 519–522.
  • West JB, Galen and the beginnings of Western physiology Volume 307 Issue 2 July 2014 Pages L121-L128