Passions and Tempers
A History of the HumoursBook - 2007
Traces the 2,500-year evolution of humour-based science, explaining the scientific bases of humour medical practices while discussing how beliefs in the relationship between health and humour balances survived throughout extended periods.
The humours—blood, phlegm, black bile, and choler—were substances thought to circulate within the body and determine a person's health, mood, and character. For example, an excess of black bile was considered a cause of melancholy. The theory of humours remained an inexact but powerful tool for centuries, surviving scientific changes and offering clarity to physicians.
This one-of-a-kind book follows the fate of these variable and invisible fluids from their Western origin in ancient Greece to their present-day versions. It traces their persistence from medical guidebooks of the past to current health fads, from the testimonies of medical doctors to the theories of scientists, physicians, and philosophers. By intertwining the histories of medicine, science, psychology, and philosophy, Noga Arikha revisits and revises how we think about all aspects of our physical, mental, and emotional selves.
For centuries everyone in Europe from physicians to peasant mothers knew that the only way to preserve health was to keep the humors of the body in balance. The four humors: choler, phlegm, black bile and blood, each have their own necessary use but too much of any one can result in both physical and mental illness. Now most people find this belief quaint. Arikha, who received a doctorate in history from the Warburg Institute, begs to differ. She traces the evolution of the theory of humors from the Greeks to the present along with the diversions and errors made by medical pioneers. She concludes that with all the technological advances in medicine that have been made, the basic idea of the humors is still with us. The book is well-written, suitable for a general audience but solidly referenced for scholars. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Draws on historical, literary, and philosophical sources to trace the 2,500-year evolution of humour-based science, offering insight into the scientific bases of humour medical practices while discussing how beliefs in the relationship between health and humour balances survived throughout extended periods. 20,000 first printing.