Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.
The rites we give to the dead help us understand what it takes to go on living.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit New York in March, the death toll quickly went up with few chances for families and communities to perform traditional rites for their loved ones.
The unfamiliar landscape of America's medical past is marked by bizarre incidents, forgotten breakthroughs and selfless sacrifice.
- We all know Columbus, but who remembers Diego Alvarez Chanca, his doctor?
- This map does – and it lists centuries of medical figures, events, and achievements.
- It provides an unusual perspective on North American history… with one exception.
A familiar canvas<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzU3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2Nzc4NDYwM30.wHXrkWn66FVklBKtl_0AjG4mjYNxxYjZC-AZdNhzhfI/img.jpg?width=980" id="48230" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f25d5dfbb69ca2ec9ff73532ec18c95c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
The map illuminates the topography of America with simplified, symbolic representations of the persons, institutions and events that have shaped medical history.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>The map of America is a familiar canvas for a multitude of stories – soil types and weather fronts, road trips and election results. But sometimes geographical acquaintance intersects with narrative quaintness, especially when the topic is very specific. As in this beautifully detailed map of "Medical Events in North America," as bizarre as it is instructive.</p><p>In the manner of a medieval miniature, it illuminates the topography of America with simplified, symbolic representations of the persons, institutions and events that have shaped medical history. That makes for some interesting discoveries. </p><p>For example, whatever our feelings about Columbus, we are familiar with him via his signature achievement. However, few will have heard of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca of Seville, physician to the king and queen of Spain, and here seen accompanying the intrepid and/or invidious Genovese on his second voyage to America (on the ship painted in the bottom right corner).</p>
Medical progress<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzA5NTM2NX0.GfGs1djKzW0GEzyCW-M4aEhKZma8uhk_UOYgNkcjVrU/img.png?width=980" id="d77d2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd1bd95d3c6350ba646865d42805e5e7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Philip Syng, holding up a jar with gallstones he removed from the bladder of Chief-Justice John Marshall, who contentedly observes from the operating table.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>While on Hispaniola in 1493, Chanca cured Columbus from an attack of malaria – quite probably the first application of western medicine in the western hemisphere. </p><p>For a good while, Spain remains the motor of medical progress in North America, with the publication in Mexico of "Opera Medicinalia," the first medical book printed in the Americas (1570), and just 10 years later, the establishment of the first university chair of medicine in the New World, also in Mexico. </p><p>Circa 1760, Junipero Serra prevented and controlled an outbreak of scurvy in California with the use of citrus juice – doing so 34 years before the British Navy struck upon the same idea. The Spanish padre is shown holding up oversized slices of oranges, dripping with healing sap. </p><p>Soon thereafter, the initiative–medical and otherwise–is seized by the Anglos on the East Coast.</p>
Remembering the pioneers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxOS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzA3NTQ4Mn0.AwsGe5Oz-A4RHP-ZcrhI97mcn4xaeaADA53_toOpYoo/img.png?width=980" id="0a976" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a4ca544b5cb8fd79cfef0462bb43540" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Samuel Gross, carting in cadavers for anatomical study.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Many of the achievements detailed on this map were truly revolutionary, helping to elevate the state of medical science to the heights it has reached today. But, as the legend of the map says, "(t)he names of the prime-movers of science disappear gradually in a general fusion, and the more a science advances, the more impersonal and detached it becomes."</p><p>So it's nice to see remembered here, among other pioneers:<br></p><ul><li>Dr. Howard Taylor Ricketts (1871-1910), from near Missoula, who demonstrated the tick-transmission of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and died of Mexican typhus during the investigation and demonstration of the disease.</li><li>Dr. J.C. Otto (1774-1844), from Philadelphia, who established haemophilia as a clinical entity.</li><li>Sir Frederick Banting, working at Toronto University Medical School, who assisted by Charles Best managed to isolate insulin and succeeded in manufacturing it in 1922. Together with J.R.R. MacLeod, he received the Nobel Prize in 1923. </li></ul>
Quarantine Enforcement Act<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2Njc4NDg4NX0.2FOxQGAcwiodMmgf_za16AM8lULURhXN12W8SGShTJ4/img.png?width=980" id="af0ac" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7541fec6e98568cb685ab31e45559eb9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
First called "Letheon"', ether was discovered by dentist W.T.G. Morton, and first surgically used at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Several institutions are singled out as beacons of medical progress, notably</p><ul> <li>hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Mayo Clinic;</li><li>educational centers of excellence such as Harvard Medical School, the Transylvania University Medical School and Jefferson Medical College; and </li><li>associations such as the State Boards of Health (first one established in 1869 in Massachusetts) and the American Medical Association (founded in Chicago).</li></ul><p>Among the achievements mentioned on the map with resonance for our own pandemic times are the Quarantine Enforcement Act, passed by Congress as early as 1799, and the stamping out, in 1905 in New Orleans of an "epidemic of yellow fever (…) by U.S. Public Health Service."Produced in 1950 and reflecting on earlier times, the map is dominated by white males.</p>The exceptions proving the rule are <ul><li>Dr. Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928), who was associated with the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and who in 1911 discovered the agent of syphilis as the cause of progressive paralytic disease; </li><li>Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), the first woman in America to receive the degree of doctor in medicine, who together with Marie Zakrzewska established the first training school for nurses in America; and </li><li>a procession of slaves owned by Washington and Jefferson, standing in line to get inoculated for smallpox.</li></ul>
Curious cases<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODkzODUwMH0.W0q3XU5ZN82nrmgAldQfFkiUFDLX7Y92n1QGJy0UwyQ/img.png?width=980" id="b1eaa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fe40428b6ab3a177f8750fc6511e02e0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Slaves of Washington and Jefferson, getting inoculated for smallpox.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Few of the events and achievement mentioned on this map have made it into general public knowledge, with two possible exceptions. </p><p><span></span>One is "the American Crowbar Case", an 'extraordinary medical incident' mentioned in a note stuck to the East Coast: "In 1848, an explosion propelled a 3 ½ ft. crowbar through the head of Phineas T. Gage and up into the air. The patient recovered completely except for loss of sight in one eye…"</p><p><span></span>The other, the curious case contained within Dr. William Beaumont's book, "Experiments & Observations of Gastric Juices." On June 6, 1822, a man named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally wounded by gunshot at Fort Mackinac. The wound healed, leaving a gastric fistula, through which Dr. Beaumont was able to make observations. But Mr. St. Martin "is a difficult subject (and) runs away repeatedly."</p>
Commissioned as sergeant<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxNC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzYzNTU3Mn0.8QGLeSPlcbKjC14HTVrJhTd8fczCn8iPRXkZn3jCxuc/img.png?width=980" id="5e575" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8771c0ef62bff8d5745d828df73200c4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Beaumont's book on gastric juices, with pages illustrating the story of his unwilling subject, Alexis St. Martin.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Really? Who doesn't want a doctor poking into their stomach through a hole in their belly? But eventually the situation is resolved to the satisfaction of both parties: "Beaumont gets (Mr. St. Martin) commissioned as sergeant to keep him during experiments."</p><p>One of the more familiar names on the map is that of Dr. Walter Reed, but mainly because he is now synonymous for the Army Medical Center named after him. The map reveals why he became famous enough for that honor:</p><p>In Cuba, Dr. Walter Reed (1851-1902) proved, together with Dr. Jesse W. Lazear, Dr. James Carroll and Dr. Aristide Agramonte, that mosquitoes were the carrier of yellow fever. Dr. Lazear & Dr. Carroll allowed themselves to be bitten by infected mosquitoes. Lazear died of the fever, Carroll's health was permanently impaired.<span></span></p>
Walter Reed in Cuba<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzYxMi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDQ0MTIzNn0.TWA_s_8FWHKd7w4IJh2VvGx0LzdOX81DXJijocrN7L4/img.png?width=980" id="c93cb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aaca80963b78cbcfa2d657766c1299aa" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bExcerpt from 'Medical Events in North America' (1950), a map depicting major figures, institutions and events in the medical history of North America." />
Dr. Walter Reed (in white), in between Dr. Carlos Finlay (who first theorised that mosquitoes carried yellow fever) and Drs. Lazar and Carroll, who put that theory to the test.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps<p>Although they are scant remembered today, their selfless sacrifice has doubtlessly saved the lives of many in the 120 years since. </p><p><span></span><em>Map produced in 1950 by Abbott Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. A copy was </em><a href="https://bostonraremaps.com/inventory/pictorial-map-extolling-american-medical-science/" target="_blank">recently sold</a><em> by Boston Rare Maps. Image kindly provided by Mike Buehler at <a href="https://bostonraremaps.com/" target="_blank">Boston Rare Maps</a></em><em>.</em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1059</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
Dr. Theobald Smith established that tick bits caused Texas Fever in cattle, thus proving that insects can carry diseases.
Credit: Boston Rare Maps
In "The Immortality Key," Brian Muraresku speculates that the Eucharist could have once been more colorful.
The Connection Psychedelics Have to Early Christianity, Christmas<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72275b24cf5d5ef9a42648bd565da0e0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XS5qjEXS6oM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Muraresku was drawn into this research due to the mystical concept of dying before dying, as expressed during the Mysteries of Eleusis. He uncovered parallel narratives while conducting research with God's librarian in the Vatican Secret Archives—a research trip few people ever have an opportunity to experience.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is something preserved in St. Paul's monastery, for example: <em>if you die before you die, you won't die when you die</em>. That's the key. It's not psychedelics; it's not drugs. It's this concept of navigating the liminal space between what you and I are doing right now, and dreaming, and death. In that state, the mystics tell us, is the potential to grasp a very different view of reality."</p><p>Something funny happened on the way to the Archives, however. Muraresku, who has never taken a psychedelic drug, read about terminally-ill patients <a href="https://maps.org/news/multimedia-library/3012-how-psychedelic-drugs-can-help-patients-face-death" target="_blank">having a similar revelation</a> after ingesting psilocybin. "Dying before dying" succinctly describes what they felt; the overwhelming sensations prepared them to actually die with confidence and grace. Could this be the same experience discovered by initiates at Eleusis and, later, early Christians? </p><p>The key to immortality might be dying before dying, and psychedelics appear to be one method for unlocking this mystery. </p><p>Muraresku spends the bulk of 400 pages chasing down archaeological and scriptural evidence for spiked wine. The wine and wafer of today is a far cry from the <em>kukeon</em> of the ancient Greeks, drunk by pilgrims, who were given the title <em>epoptes</em>, "the one who has seen it all." That's a heavy ask for a grape. </p><p>But if you were to mix that grape with blue water lily (with its psychoactive compounds, apomorphine and nuciferin), henbane, lizards—ancestral food choices that put Brooklyn hipsters to shame—or ergot, the fungal disease that gives LSD its kick, you might just "see it all." As Muraresku points out, the Greek language is descriptively rich and extensive, yet these philosophers somehow never invented a word for "alcohol." Their chalices weren't for wine alone. </p>
The Telesterion at the Archaeological site of Eleusis ( or "Elefsis) or "Elefsina", Attica, Greece
Credit: Iraklis Milas / Adobe Stock<p>While he calls psychedelics "just one, perhaps very tiny piece" of early Christian rituals, it could be an essential one. Sadly, archaeochemistry isn't the most funded discipline, especially after asking the Vatican to hand over guarded relics in hopes of discovering trace amounts of psychedelics. And yet, even with those restrictions, Muraresku gains access to the Vatican Secret Archives and jet sets with a sympathetic Father Francis through the Louvre and Rome in search of potential connections in the literature and art.</p><p>There are plenty. While the gospel writers were busy writing what would become the world's most lasting bestseller, Dioscorides was penning his unforgettable recipe book, "Da meteria medica." The five-volume drug manual's influence lasted for 1,500 years before Renaissance botanists usurped his reign. Regardless, Dioscorides included cocktails spiked with plants, herbs, and toxins, some of which inspire a hallucinogenic—some would say religious—sentiment.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's no mistake that the Eucharist is described as the 'drug of immortality' by the early Church fathers because there was this sense of really sophisticated botanical understanding that goes all the way back to Homer. Obviously, it goes back a lot further, and so part of the reason I wrote the book is to show people that within Western civilization—at its roots, in fact—is this very pharmacopoeia. This tradition was certainly there, and it begs the question of how prevalent and widespread it really was."</p><p>Add to this already riveting tale the fact that the gatekeepers of Eleusis were women—a practice Christianity abandoned. Women were likely the distributors of the spiked beverages that helped initiates "see it all." Modern precedent exists, though not in American Christianity. The Western world was introduced to psilocybin after R Gordon Wasson sat in on a ceremony led by the <em>curandera</em> María Sabina. Likewise, ayahuasca is called "godmother" for a reason.</p><p>We live in a world that went from honoring goddesses to hunting witches, though we shouldn't glorify ancient Greece. The first democracy didn't allow women to vote and likely didn't let them partake in epic plays. Men performed as women in the Tragedies. Highborn women often become slaves in these plays, such as with Cassandra, Hecuba, and Tecmessa. Misogyny is ancient. While Greek city folk were jacked up on testosterone, Eleusis offered a different landscape. </p><p>Regardless, Christian leaders exiled women from both leadership and ritual. While in the Archives, Muraresku found evidence of at least 45,000 so-called witches being executed, with "countless more" tortured or imprisoned. The patriarchy initiated a pattern:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"[The leadership] wasn't just trying to rid Christianity of folk healers. It was trying to erase a system of knowledge that had survived for centuries in the shadows." </p>
Conspirituality interview with Brian Muraresku<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="667ddf5ba30218a0baefe066cf36c4f2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0aogj-08AMo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The knowledge was the pharmacological expertise these women had amassed over untold generations. The two banes of the Church—mind-altering substances that afford the initiate a mindset comparable (or, perhaps exactly akin) to prophets and sages and women, the holders of the Secrets—were swept up in one millennia-long cover-up. As Muraresku succinctly phrases it, "the Catholic Church started the War on Drugs." Perhaps the War on Women, too.</p><p>Perhaps they're two aspects of the same war. </p><p>Interestingly, this 12-year-long odyssey only deepened Muraresku's Catholicism, which is rooted in the Jesuit tradition. As he says, Christianity—a religion that was a cult for over 300 years before being catapulted onto the global stage—has always evolved. Could the Church possibly change again and offer the psychedelic sacrament that might lie at the heart of the religion? Is another Reformation possible? </p><p>As Muraresku concludes during our talk, each attempt to get back to the roots, beginning with Martin Luther and continuing right through to Pope Francis, is an analysis of the origins of the faith. To know your history is to understand where you're heading. Muraresku would like to see another step forward. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There was no monolithic Christianity. Just like today, you look around and see 33,000 denominations of Christianity—a few of which include psychedelics as their sacrament, such as the Santo Daime or the Native American Church, which has some Christian syncretism to it. The possibility of a psychedelic sacrament in antiquity is not laughable. In fact, it's quite plausible according to some of the literature and data that's just beginning to emerge on the scientific front. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"When I look and see Hellenic Christianity that was very much at the roots of the Catholic Church, and the more I found that Greek influence underneath the Vatican—in some cases, literally, in the catacombs—the more I began to really love and appreciate what this was all about. The more I read the Greek and the more evidence that I see, the more in love with Christianity I become. Now, it might not be some people's definition of Christianity today, but again, if you just step back and take a very honest look at the Greek of the New Testament and the Greek landscape in which it emerged, it's a really powerful statement."</p><p>--<br></p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
The bubonic plague ravaged the world for centuries, killing up to 200 million people.
People praying for relief from the bubonic plague, circa 1350. Original Artwork: Designed by E Corbould, lithograph by F Howard.
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ambulance men of Florence, Italy, carrying a patient on a stretcher whilst wearing masks to ward off the plague.
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images