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bitten by the bad air

Even a cursory glance at the history of medicine can, it turns out, yield surprising discoveries. You'd think something like this would permeate popular culture so much that there would be no way for it to go unnoticed, but no-o, today is the first time I hear about the plague doctors of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and see the costumes designed to protect them from airborne infection (fleas, the real culprit in bubonic plague, were not recognized as vectors of disease, and the miasma theory of the plague's origin was popular). Protective clothing consisted of an overcoat, leggings, gloves, boots, and hat, made of heavy waxed fabric or leather, and - oh, these doctors must have been a terrifying sight - a mask with glassed eye openings and a beak serving as a respirator of sorts, with its tip holding scented substances like dried flowers, herbs, spices and vinegar for purifying the bad air.

(I'm not actually sure when these costumes first appeared - the above is a 17th century etching showing a contemporary plague doctor and there exists a 16th century poem describing such clothing; the plague doctors of the Middle Ages might have been wearing something different. I may yet find out.)



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
дааа, я эти истории - и конкретно эту картинку - помню еще по детской энциклопедии, лет с 10
Nov. 19th, 2010 03:08 am (UTC)
во-во :)
но лучше поздно, чем никогда :)

Edited at 2010-11-19 03:15 am (UTC)
Nov. 19th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
то есть это из тех вещей, на которые тривиально обратить внимание, один раз их увидев, и меня жутко удивляет, что до того мне ни разу это не попалось :)
Nov. 19th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
ну я вообще в детстве очень интересовался биологией и микробиологией, т.е. этот клюв видел раз десять - хотя наверное он и с одного раза запомнился бы ))
Nov. 19th, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
Two things. First, have a song about the Bubonic Plague (well, that and the Black Death

Second, have a painting of a different sort of plague doctor. I have one on my wall* -- and it is much awesome.

*Well, the floor at the moment -- I need to hang it up soon though
Nov. 19th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
слушаю песенку.
Nov. 19th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC)
...I think I'll spend tomorrow singing

Now, a droplet-based transmission means I sneeze and then you die,
It's a fairly common vector and we think that's largely why
Nov. 19th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
My job here is done :)
Nov. 19th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC)
lovely painting, yes.
the ferret!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )