It All Depends on the Dose: Poisons and Medicines in European History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

It All Depends on the Dose

Poisons and Medicines in European History, 1st Edition

Edited by Ole Peter Grell, Andrew Cunningham, Jon Arrizabalaga


244 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138697614
pub: 2018-05-09
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This is the first volume to take a broad historical sweep of the close relation between medicines and poisons in the Western tradition, and their interconnectedness. They are like two ends of a spectrum, for the same natural material can be medicine or poison, depending on the dose, and poisons can be transformed into medicines, while medicines can turn out to be poisons. The book looks at important moments in the history of the relationship between poisons and medicines in European history, from Roman times, with the Greek physician Galen, through the Renaissance and the maverick physician Paracelsus, to the present, when poisons are actively being turned into beneficial medicines.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Deadly Medicine

[Andrew Cunningham]

1. Poisons in the Historic Medicine Cabinet

[Toine Pieters]

2. "First Behead Your Viper": Acquiring Knowledge in Galen's Poison Stories

[Helen King]

3. Mining for Poison in a Devout Heart: Dissective Practices and Poisoning in Late Medieval Europe

[Montserrat Cabré and Fernando Salmón]

4. Pestis Manufacta: Plague, Poisons, and Fear in Mid Fourteenth-Century Europe

[Jon Arrizabalaga]

5. Alchemy, Potency, Imagination: Paracelsus's Theories of Poison

[Georgiana D. Hedesan]

6. Martin Luther on the Poison of Sexual Abstinence and the Poison of the Pox: From Galen to Paracelsus

[Ole Peter Grell]

7. Poisoning as Politics: The Italian Renaissance Courts

[Alessandro Pastore]

8. Gender, Poison, and Antidotes in Early Modern Europe

[Alisha Rankin]

9. Mateu Orfila (1787-1853) and Nineteenth-Century Toxicology

[José Ramón Bertomeu-Sánchez]

10. Mercury: "One of the Most Valuable Drugs We Have" (1937)

[Andrew Cunningham]

11. Collateral Benefits: Ergot, Botulism, Salmonella and Their Therapeutic Applications Since 1800

[Anne Hardy]

12. Does It All Depend on the Dose? Understanding Beneficial and Adverse Drug Effects Since 1864: Clinical and Experimental Attitudes to the Law of Mass Action and Concentration–Effect Curves

[Jeffrey K. Aronson and Robin E. Ferner]

About the Editors

Ole Peter Grell is Professor in Early Modern History at The Open University, U.K.

Andrew Cunningham was formerly Senior Research Fellow at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Jon Arrizabalaga is Research Professor in History of Science at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Institución Milà i Fontanals, Barcelona, Spain.

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Europe / General
MEDICAL / History