Beginning with paleo-pathologic evidence of diseases in ancient Egypt that now are considered rheumatologic, the history of the development of beliefs and concepts of “rheumatism” is traced from about 1000 BCE to the beginning of relevant experiment-based science in mid-19th century. An introduction traces the etymology and modern introduction of “rheum.” The main text is divided chronologically into five chapters, each with detailed references. These, as far as possible, come from primary sources, with an emphasis placed on historically revealing quotations. Chapter 1 describes paleo-pathology and the earliest written record to 800 CE; chapter 2 covers the “Dark Ages” to Renaissance (900 – mid 16th century;). Chapter 3 discusses the beginning of scientific observations in the 17th century. Chapter 4 includes 18th to early 19th century shedding of ancient concepts to the beginning of modern quantitative science. Finally, chapter 5 chronicles the recognition of uric acid and its relationship to gout. This overlaps with chapter 4 and brings the gout part of the story to the late 20th century. A glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to some readers is appended. While this pre-scientific history of medicine is focused on the development of the concept of rheumatism, the philosophic timeline is applicable to Western medicine in general. (Imprint: Nova Biomedical)
"The author has packed, into about 150 pages, the history of rheumatology from its origins, through the mid-nineteenth century, to present concepts on uric acid and gout. Consistent with his prior publications, the information is carefully referenced and presented in exquisite detail. Although there are no figures, each chapter is followed by a table that lists chronologically the authors referenced, their location and inclusive dates. There are 5 chapters, dividing the history of rheumatology by periods of time. Each chapter is subdivided into sections that emphasize a contributor or conceptual contribution. Within each chapter, the author cross-references topics that overlap other eras. The origins of the terminology, such as “arthritis” and “rheumatism,” are clearly defined. The text documents gout as nearly the only rheumatic disease in the ancient literature. The transition from the concepts of “rheumatism” a member of the 4 bodily humors was slow. The text documents the transition and introduction of modern day science in the past few centuries. The author brings us to our present state of knowledge, particularly in gout and uric acid. Many passages contain subtle humor. Being a student of the history of rheumatology, I enjoyed the detail and documentation. Some of my ideas were changed--for example, the historical role and toxicity of colchicine in arthritis and gout. The author has tried to bring clarity to a confusing and diverse literature that by today’s standards was simplistic. My major question after reading the text was about how our present state of knowledge, that we consider real and logical, will be viewed in the future.” - Reviewed by Roy D. Altman, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, USA
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
- Reviewed by Kevin Chung, M.D., M.S., University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI
Clinics in Dermatology
- Reviewed by Lawrence Charles Parish, MD, MD (Hon), Clinical Professor of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology; Director of the Jefferson Center for International Dermatology; Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, PA, USA
- Reviewed by Eric v.d. Luft, Ph.D., M.L.S., Curator of Historical Collections Emeritus, SUNY Upstate Medical University
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