By Jonathan Reinarz and Kevin Siena (eds)
Ailments affecting the surface have tended to impress a reaction of specific horror in society. With seen and occasionally repellant outward symptoms of illness, they have been frequently looked as if it would 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 present day. This choice of essays makes use of case experiences to chart the clinical heritage of dermis from the eighteenth to the 20th century.
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Extra info for A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface
What treatments were available for skin wounds, and what were the challenges and controversies surrounding them? Did early modern surgeons discuss pain control, or is this, as some historians have claimed, a modern concern? And what can all of this tell us about the history of skin? 13 Many of the surgical cases in mid- to late eighteenth-century London came to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, one of the English capital’s seven teaching hospitals. Patients there often came under the care of Percivall Pott (1714–1788), considered by his peers to be the best practical surgeon of his day.
First, it demonstrates that skin was a tissue made up of minute pores that many substances such as water and oil could not penetrate; and second, that manifestations on the skin were seen as signs of internal disturbances. One could draw these out in numerous ways through injuring or stimulating the skin. Apply a hot iron, a burning chemical, create an issue, attach a leech – Georgian surgeons employed many methods to work the skin. But there was not widespread agreement on what to try and when.
68 How did surgeons acquire this detailed knowledge of the stages of skin breakdown and responses to injury? Kirkland stated that such information came from making incisions in the wound over several days. Incising the skin when bubbles first form produces a discharge of blood; however, if incision is made when the skin inflates, one gets a large discharge of wind and frothy matter. Later, if one pierces the skin, the blood will be black and the muscles putrid. Finally, the skin becomes livid and putrid.