The tradition of alchemy in China is long. Unlike Western alchemy that focused on transmuting metals into gold, Chinese alchemy primarily aimed to make elixirs to achieve immortality. The materials used in Chinese tradition were mainly minerals – many of them toxic by modern standard. These include cinnabar, mercury, lead, sulfur, and arsenic. These elixirs, once ingested, often caused traumatic bodily experiences, and death. If the appeal of the elixir was high, so was its price. Chinese alchemists, strangely, continued the practice for almost a millennium.
This project, which is based on a course co-taught by Katharine Park and Ahmed Ragab in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard, will yield a co-authored book for the use of students and non-specialist scholars. This will present scientific and medical thought and practice in the Islamic and Latin Christian Middle Ages as a unified enterprise with a unified history, rather than as part of a story describing the transfer of knowledge from Greek antiquity to early modern Europe via the Arabic-speaking world. The book is organized around the …
ABSTRACT: Humanities in these days are facing a major crisis. The programs in art and sciences have been nearly cut away from from school/universities programs in virtually all countries of the world. Their methods are considered "unscientific", their results useless, the value they put forward old fashioned or unfit for the contemporary technological and business-oriented society. A recent scientist manifesto published on the New Republic by Steven Pinker is a plea to humanists for converting to scientific method.
In a scroll known as Rokugei no zu painted in 1847 and now held in the National Diet Library of Japan, there is a fascinating side view of a right whale (Eubalaena japonica) showing the disposition of its internal organs. The importation of Dutch medical texts into Japan led to a new understanding of human internal anatomy and thus new ways of depicting the human body during the Edo period (1603-1868). But how did this study of Western medical texts and illustrations lead to anatomical drawings of whales?