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The Greek authorities recently named and shamed a number of tax-avoiding doctors. A move that is perhaps more revealing of blame-shifting than an indication that the profession is morally suspect. Not that doctors are always the saints we’d like them to be. Just because they’ve taken the Hippocratic Oath, doesn’t mean they’re going to stick to it. Buried within our vast and varied medical collections are a number of objects associated with good doctors that turned (very) bad. Dr Neill […]

One of the most curious meteorology objects I’ve discovered recently is the weather glass. It was first described in 1558 by the Italian scholar Giambattista della Porta.     Della Porta’s apparatus was essentially the same as the air thermoscope, which I wrote about a recently. The alternative design shown below was in use from the 1600s. As the air in the vessel expands and contracts water moves up and down the spout, indicating changing atmospheric conditions.  Before air pressure was understood, the instrument was sometimes […]

The oral contraceptive – better known simply as ‘the pill’ – is a part of everyday life. And while its very existence still attracts strong and conflicting opinions, it has revolutionised the lives of countless women in the last 50 years. Because it was on May 9, 1960, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conditionally approved the drug Enovid 10mg – the world’s first birth control pill. Surprisingly, Enovid had already been available for several years. Used by […]

My colleague Vicky is right. Spring is finally here. And yet… winter drags on, as the lingering winter vomiting disease continues to make its presence felt. A family of viruses – known as the noroviruses – thrive in crowded conditions and are especially fond of schools, where pupils then take bugs home. An unpleasant scenario my young daughter and I played out a few days ago. Avoiding it is partly down to luck. But one major defence is the good old public health […]

So, what’s the connection between contact lenses and rocket engines? The answer, I probably don’t hear you cry, is hydrogen peroxide and cleanliness. You see, to clean my newly acquired contacts involves bathing them overnight in a solution of hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide is a pretty powerful chemical agent and disinfects the lenses in 6 hours. If you put your lenses in too soon the still active chemical will turn on your eyeballs and cause them to gush tears like Gordon Ramsay’s […]

Curatorial work can be pretty desk-bound, so opportunities to get your hands dirty are not to be missed. I recently fulfilled a long-held ambition to venture into London’s Victorian sewers. Hey – we’ve all got to dream… Back in the 1800’s London’s sanitation was terrible, as this satirical engraving of ”Monster Soup commonly called Thames Water”, illustrates: It was a public health disaster, that claimed numerous lives. London’s sewage system, although it’s still being modernised, is essentially a Victorian construction engineered by Joseph […]