Bad Humored: humoral theory and its influence on medicine

As the twentieth century dawned, the European leech had been gathered almost to extinctions as a result of medical men using it as a gentler way of drawing blood. The alternatives were blades or lancets, or specifically designed instruments with terrifying names such as fleams or scarificators. This was the remnants of an idea of disease that went back to Ancient Greece, where the idea had developed that disease was due to an imbalance of one of the body’s vital fluids – blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Treatment was a matter of restoring that balance, and one of the ways that could be done was through blood letting. This talk will look at what humoral theory was, what it told us about the body, and the way it influenced medical thinking.


Cat Irving has been the Human Remains Conservator for Surgeons’ Hall since 2015 and has been caring for anatomical and pathological museum collections for over twenty years. After a degree in Anatomical Science she began removing brains and sewing up bodies at the Edinburgh City Mortuary. Following training in the care of wet tissue collections at the Royal College of Surgeons of England she worked with the preparations of William Hunter at the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow University, where she is now Consultant Human Remains Conservator. Cat is a licensed anatomist, and gives regular talks on anatomy and medical history. She recently carried out conservation work on the skeleton of serial killer William Burke

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day


30 July 2024 8:00 pm - 09:30 pm

£6 - £10 & By Donation

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