„Medycyna Nowożytna” T. 16, 2009/2010, fasc. 1-2

25.09.2015 | 12.02.2022


Jowita Jagla – Ph. D – ats of historian, University of Lodz

„Teeth, worms, pain and spell – reflection on the dental iconography and folklore”.


The history of dentistry, and precisely the history of fighting the toothache, was formed with considerable difficulty. The professional literature was hard to reach (the problem regarding the treatment of teeth was described among others by Awicenna, Abulcasis, Vesalius, Paré, Fauchard), what resulted in dental treatment performed mainly by surgeons, and more often by barbers, blacksmiths and so called “tooth pullers”. The iconography of the „tooth pullers” presented their activity as a great dental performance (paintings by Jan Steen, Adriaen Brouwer, Gerrit van Honthorst). A unique phenomenon in the history of dentistry was the vision of tooth worms, that were supposed to cause the toothache – this subject was discussed in works of Scribonius Largus, Avicenna, Ibn Sīnā, Abd al – Rahim al – Jawbari, and XVI century Polish doctors and herbalists like Hieronim Spiczyński, Marcin Siennik, Szymon z Łowicza.

The teeth were not the ordinary body parts; their appearance determined the man’s future, his character, predispositions, future fortune. Such important role as teeth’s was emphasized in late medieval and Renaissance iconography, particularly in the scenes of the Passion. Christ’s torturers are presented with deformed physiognomy, disease symptoms and with degenerate, incomplete, distorted, turpistic even teeth, what completed the symbolic picture of the sin, understood as a morbid condition..

The votive representations also constitute the testimony of fighting the toothache; in particular the silver votive objects. They are usually presented as simple plates picturing one tooth; original representations include the whole jaw or the mouth with contour of teeth, what could refer not only to healing from the toothache but also to the speech recovery.

Presentation of the tooth-like votive objects was not difficult because of very popular representations of the „tooth pullers” and because of multiple representations of St. Apolonia – the patroness of dentistry, presented with the attribute in the form of dental forceps with a tooth in them.

Generality of St. Apolonia’s worship and remarkable presence of dental votive objects seem to confirm the deadly fear of the toothache. The toothache was compared only to the heartache or the soul sufferance appearing due to the unreciprocated love (such considerations can be found among others in “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare).



Jerzy Janiuk – physician, surgeon, PhD Institute of History of Science Polish Academy of SciencesTuberculosis in Young Poland period and during the interwar in the theory and medical practice


The subject of the study is the picture of tuberculosis in turn of XIX and XX century (1890-1939). Tuberculosis has been with people for ages. Due to lack of effective therapy until 50s last century tuberculosis constituted not only a medical problem, but because of the prevalence of infection it was also social problem. It was considered as a fatal disease what made that people were afraid and scared. One of the most important moment in history was discovery R.Koch, who on 29th of March 1882 on an assembly Berlin Physiologists announced an identification  the bacillus, which was later called his name. This bacillus was responsible for TB symptoms. Unfortunatelly, it did not improve treatment results. Available effective methods did not play a prominent role, because they were possible only for privileged. Costs of treatment and rehabilitation sick people were very high. TB picture as a disease carrying death has changed over the past several decades. The disease became mainly medical problem, still very important but not crucial. It is not primary what it used to be: a widespread epidemic disease, “white plague” with an enormous social-economic consequences, a cultural phenomenon affecting the fate not only of individuals, but also the whole society.The aim of the study is presentation the medical knowledge about the tuberculosis in period 1890-1939: the symptoms, diagnosis and methods of treatment, preventive actions, and also social and health consequenses and former system of a health service.



Lilianna Wdowiak Ph.D – Independent laboratory medical education Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin

Doctors – folklorists on Polish lands in the 19th and 20th century

The interest in people and their problems did not appear with the dawn of the age of Romanticism, as it was previously believed, but it was already present in the Enlightenment period.  Doctors played a very important part in creating branches of science, such as ethnography, ethnology, anthropology (cultural, physical and medical).   Despite the fact that several dozen doctors pursued their interest in folklore studies, their input in the history of ethnography or ethnology has not been fully appreciated.   Folk medicine had relatively early become the object of interest. The first monographs devoted to ethnomedicine on lands previously belonging to the Polish state were published as early as the end of the 19th century. Doctors were also interested in folk art and architecture, they wrote down lyrics of folk songs and dwelled upon issues of linguistics. The Kashubian doctors were interested in people for patriotic reasons, they were not only educating them on medicine, but they had also introduced a special alphabet to transcribe the Kashubian language and wrote books in the Kashubian language. The aim of the medical society was also to eliminate superstitious practices in country medicine, especially those connected with plica, and to ridicule magical rituals.  The fault-finding approach eventually resulted in disappearance of a number of treatment methods, which are currently regaining their appreciation in pharmacology and psychology.



Małgorzata Marcysiak – Ph.D – historian of medicine, State Higher Vocational School in Ciechanow

Dentist protection in Lvov province in years 1929-39


In the interwar period in Poland due to the unsatisfactory state of public health, dental care takes on prime importance. Among the inhabitants of towns and villages spread of decay. It include all social groups. Particularly worrying was the presence of caries among young people. The reasons for the phenomenon was seen at a difficult economic context, poverty and even society, irrational nutrition and hygiene neglect. A worrying phenomenon was also adversely affect the patient’s dental diseases of other organs.

Status of dental care were found to be unsatisfactory, and one of the reasons for this was an insufficient number of dentists and their uneven distribution in the city and the countryside. At the end of the period (1936-1937) in the whole province was 77 dentists. Most (33) practiced in the city of Lviv and others (44) were unpacked in the districts. Proceeded inversely proportional relationship between the distribution of dentists, and the distribution of the population.

Due to the mentioned, worrying dental health of children and youth taken action to improve the situation. An excellent place to fight tooth decay were the school. School children subject to periodic preventive dental examinations and treatment (fillings, treatment of inflammation and gangrene dental pulp, removing roots). Important role in the prevention of dental caries also served as school nurse. They carry out talks about the importance of oral hygiene and shows how to properly brush their teeth. Despite the upward trend among dentists and dental care actions in the Lviv region was not satisfactory, due to the still inadequate number of trained staff, disparities in their distribution and the low level of hygienic culture.



Marta Lipińska – Central Medical Library in Ciechanów

Dental secondary education between 1945-1961 in the opinion of periodical „Medical Service”


After the second world war attempt to regulate the training of dental technicians by training them in three-year Secondary School of Dental Technology. Since 1946 the number of graduates of this school was regularly increasing. The Dental technician’s occupation could be received by completion a Secondary School of Dental Technology or by passing the exam under the protection of  people with professional experience. The number of dental technicians before the end of 1962 was still too small. Dental education of this period was stable and was improving existing system of education. Between 1945-1961 there were many types of schools: secondary schools of dental technology, technical colleges of dental technology and dental technicians’ schools. After the second world war the number of schools which trained dental technicians was increasing very slowly  – in 1959 the number of candidates was nearly 20 times higher than the number of places in schools. The organisation of school was set by the statute which regulated the establishment and functioning. Initially, the teaching in dental technology schools was based on general-education gymnasium program. In dental technology schools were: general-education subjects, subjects related to the profession, professional and practical lessons. The schools’ equip with teaching aids wasn’t satisfacionary, not every school had adequate conditions for learning, sometimes school hadn’t even own local. Most of dental technology schools’ candidates were from working-class families.



Magdalena Paciorek – Ph. D. historian of medicine, Institute for the History of Science Polish Academy of Sciences

The idea stachanowskiego traffic in healthy sector in 1948-1956 on example of magazine “Service Health”


The idea of competition under Polish labour pervasive since 1947 was also reflected in the health sector. She is using as a source of historical medical press („health”) tried to capture some traffic stachanowskiego, a gradual approach development (launched in 1948 and ongoing (in his first period) to the mid 1950s. The bulk of the article devoted to the analysis of the source of news and press releases from said „health”. She recognises the specific nature of that source, due to his bias. In truth investigation proved helpful wartime policy criticism which also reflected also press. In work discusses the scope of articles. It focused on issues such as e.g. employee commitment, then scientists examine broad concept, results of competition, thus taking into account both their positive, in their opinion, organizer, aspect and highlighting certain weaknesses and deficiencies in motion. On this occasion mentioned labour and traffic in healthcare. Another issue was also criticism of the competition, which featured the press have advertisements presented. Finally, she tries to present as an objective relationship health professionals to the idea of stachanowskiego traffic. She realises a discussed issues without other sources. Further studies are therefore matter.


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