By Jonathan Reinarz and Kevin Siena (eds)
Illnesses affecting the surface have tended to impress a reaction of specific horror in society. With seen and infrequently repellant outward symptoms of illness, they have been usually appeared to be hugely contagious, in addition to synonymous with immorality. Such connotations can have stemmed from the tell-tale buboes of syphilis, however the social stigma of disfigurement is anything that also exists this day. This choice of essays makes use of case experiences to chart the scientific historical past of dermis from the eighteenth to the 20th century.
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Extra resources for A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface
These constituted the basis for the classification, in addition to the question of how far the lesions extended into the skin’s tissue. Theria was then divided into subgroups depending on the form of its lesions and how deeply they infiltrated the skin. To Hjort, the skin had become complex and layered; it comprised the outer and inner skin, and contained diverse elements, such as glandular tissue, hair follicles and blood vessels. 39 The attacked tissues were related, for they shared a similar anatomopathological structure.
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.
Five days later, Pott became increasingly concerned that the girl was not waking up and decided to drain the blood collected around the wound. A nurse held a dressing in place while he visited his other patients. Pott returned to discover the girl coming round. By the next day she was asking for a drink, but despite these positive signs the outcome was not good – seventeen days after being brought to the hospital, she convulsed and died. 36 Abscesses were complex to treat. Eighteenth-century London surgeons agreed that they should not be removed until they reached their full inflammatory and suppurative maturity, because an abscess could potentially be the crisis of an internal disease.