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 infrequently repellant outward indicators of illness, they have been usually looked as if it would be hugely contagious, in addition to synonymous with immorality. Such connotations could have stemmed from the tell-tale buboes of syphilis, however the social stigma of disfigurement is anything that also exists this present day. This number of essays makes use of case experiences to chart the clinical background of pores and skin from the eighteenth to the 20th century.
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Extra info for A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface
The mundane work of setting bones and lancing boils offered little opportunity to gain fame or fortune from patrons or pupils: I know, indeed, Operations often make a great noise, and prejudice people in favour of the abilities of the Operator; and some, with very little knowledge in Surgery, have raised themselves great reputation by this mechanical part of the profession, which requires no great genius, as it depends only upon a knowledge of anatomy, and a practical dexterity of the hand … Nevertheless, notwithstanding this part of practice is so readily acquired, it has of late years been more attended to by the student, and cultivated with more assiduity, than the treatment of Fractures, Luxations, Wounds, Abscesses, Ulcers, etc …70 Kirkland was particularly concerned that surgeons appeared to believe, and largely to publish, that there was nothing more to be learnt about or to improve upon in the treatment of ‘the most common business of surgery’, skin wounds.
M. 17 Lectures and publications by Pott and his former dressers, Abernethy, Clare and Heaviside, reveal the theories, practices and fierce arguments behind treating even the simplest of skin wounds. The initial question was how a wound to the skin naturally heals; according to eighteenth-century surgeons, there were three stages involved. The first was called digestion, and to quote Clare from his 1779 treatise on skin ailments, ‘digestion involved the formation of a quantity of good pus on the surface’;18 he addressed good and bad pus later in the 20 A Medical History of Skin chapter.
Blood vessels then grew through the cavity made by the wound, resulting in what was known as ‘healing by first intention’. Many surgeons theorized that if the wound was exposed to air, this somehow deprived the blood of the power to unite the parts by first intention;27 therefore they covered an exposed wound with plasters and/or stuffed it Drain, Blister, Bleed 21 with lint in order to absorb any blood and enable the wound to form a hard dry skin on top of the cavity. But this practice was a matter of debate: Mr.