This exhibition, hosted by the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the University of Michigan Library, explores the early history of Western medicine as illustrated by a broad selection of archaeological artifacts, papyri, medieval manuscripts, and early printed books. It consists of five main themes:
- Religion, Magic, and Healing
- Graeco-Roman Medicine
- Islamic Medicine
- Medieval Medicine
- Renaissance Medicine
Among the earliest objects on display is a second-century AD papyrus with a text from the Greek botanist Dioscorides’ On Materia Medica, while the latest exhibit is the first edition of William Harvey’s Anatomical Treatise on the Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals (1628), which is shown in the Audubon Room (University of Michigan Hatcher Library). The display explores various themes such as the role of religion and magic in healing the soul and body, the influence of Graeco-Roman methods of diagnosis and treatment in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the multilingual transmission of medical knowledge in both manuscript and printed form. From Hippocrates to Harvey, we invite you to embark on an exciting journey where advances in “rational” medicine are often intermingled with religious belief and superstition.
Search for the audio icons so you can listen to the vivid testimonies from the past preserved in these artifacts, from invocations of the gods to detailed descriptions of medical recipes.
View photos of the gallery at the Kelsey Museum.