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West Asian science – Mesopotamia and Iran

By | 2018-04-07T17:05:01+00:00 September 15th, 2017|Science, West Asia|

The constellation Orion From the Stone Age through the Islamic empires, great scientific discoveries have streamed out of West Asia. West Asia is one of the places where farming got started, and maybe the sailboat. The Sumerians developed the world's earliest system of writing, including the first way to write down numbers. They invented the wheel, using it as a pottery [...]

What is yellow fever? – History of medicine

By | 2018-04-15T17:01:43+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Africa, Science|

Kids with yellow fever in Mississippi about 1870. See how all the people are white? The hospital wasn't letting black kids in, or hiring black women as nurses. The virus that causes yellow fever probably evolved from an earlier virus that didn't make people sick. The first cases of yellow fever may have been in East or Central [...]

What is typhus? History of diseases

By | 2017-09-07T10:30:32+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Science|

A woman with typhus Nobody seems to have caught typhus before about 1450 AD, so the disease probably didn't exist until then. Typhus is an infection caused by tiny germs (bacteria) that live inside animal cells, and most people caught the germs from lice, when the lice bit them (the lice die of typhus too). [...]

What is typhoid fever? History of diseases

By | 2018-04-25T17:12:45+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Science|

A person with typhoid rash (Iran) Typhoid fever isn't the same thing as typhus at all. You catch typhus from being bit by lice that have bitten people with typhoid, and you catch typhoid from drinking water with traces of human poop in it. (You can't catch typhoid from animals.) The germs that cause typhoid are a kind of salmonella, [...]

What is tuberculosis? History of diseases

By | 2018-04-18T18:18:04+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Science, West Asia|

A child with tuberculosis Tuberculosis is a lung disease caused by germs. Today we can usually cure it with antibiotics. But in antiquity there was no cure. Many people died of tuberculosis. One kind of tuberculosis seems to have infected people since the Paleolithic. It came to North America and South America with the first people, about 13,000 BC. This tuberculosis [...]

What was smallpox? History of disease

By | 2018-04-15T17:01:43+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Central Asia, Science|

A baby with smallpox (from the CDC) Smallpox was a very serious disease caused by a virus. Many people died of it. Smallpox caused little bumps on your skin, like chickenpox but much more serious. About two to five of every ten people who got smallpox died of it. There was (and is still) [...]

What is opium? World history of medicine and drugs

By | 2017-09-07T09:33:48+00:00 September 7th, 2017|Central Asia, Science|

Opium poppy flower Opium comes from a kind of poppy flower. It evolved around 100 million years ago in West Asia and Central Asia. People probably realized as soon as they got to West Asia, about 60,000 years ago, that you could use opium as a medicine. By 6000 BC, in the Stone Age, West Asian farmers were already growing opium in their [...]

What is measles? History of diseases and medicine

By | 2018-04-25T17:11:36+00:00 September 7th, 2017|History, Science|

A kid with measles Measles is a sickness that first makes you feel sick, with a fever, a cough, and a runny nose. Then it gives you a rash all over your skin. It is caused by a virus, and you usually catch it by touching a person with measles, or touching something they [...]

The human body in medieval and modern science

By | 2018-04-25T17:09:55+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Biology, Science|

Chinese drawing of the organs (about 1200) Between the Middle Ages and modern times, doctors have learned a lot of new things about how human bodies work. The Islamic doctor Al-Tabari, in the early 800s, learned that light bounces off objects into your eyes. Al-Tabari's student Al Razi figured out that a fever is your body's way of fighting illness, not [...]