Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/206

This page has been validated.
194
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

healing, we can not pass in silence the accomplished Hypatia. Born at Alexandria in the latter part of the fourth century, the daughter of Theon, an eminent mathematician and philosopher, she soon excelled her father in these branches of learning. After profiting by profound studies under celebrated masters at Athens and Alexandria, she publicly taught philosophy at both these centers of culture. Gibbon writes of her, "In the bloom of beauty and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples." On Hypatia's inhuman murder at the instigation of the jealous Cyril and his fanatical followers, it is not here necessary to dwell.

The practice of medicine by women obtained to some extent during the middle ages. Under the influence of Mohammedan rule, women were placed in excessive isolation, and it is not surprising to find under these circumstances that certain women were skilled in attending to the requirements of their own sex. Thus Albucasis, of Cordova, one of the most skillful surgeons of the twelfth century, secured the services of properly instructed women for assistance in operations on females in which considerations of delicacy intervened. Avicenna also, writing of remedies for diseases of the eyes, mentions a collyrium compounded by a woman well versed in medical science. On the whole, however, the number of women instructed in medicine among the Arabs was very small, owing possibly to the inferiority to which women were condemned by Eastern usages.

In Christian countries the nuns as well as the priests attended to the healing of the sick as an act of charity and piety. Abelard, in the twelfth century, permitted the practice of surgery to those of the convent of the Paraclete, over which Héloïse presided. The most celebrated of the learned nuns was Hildegarde (a. d. 1098-1180), abbess of the convent of Rupertsberg, near Bingen on the Rhine. She compiled a sort of materia medica, which comprises a variety of superstitious remedies. Radegonde of France, the founder of a convent at Poitiers (died 587), the pious ascetic Elizabeth of Hungary (died 1231), Hedwigia, wife of Henry the Bearded, and other women who devoted themselves to the care of the sick, may be properly regarded as praiseworthy exemplars of Christian benevolence rather than educated practitioners of medicine.

In the famous school of medicine established at Salernura by Benedictine monks in the eleventh century, we find women taking an important part. Ordericus Vitalis, in his "Ecclesiastical History" (written about 1130), relates that an abbot eminent in natural sciences-, and especially distinguished in medicine, visited Salernum in the year 1059 for the purpose of discussing medical topics, and found no one erudite enough to reply to his propositions save a certain woman of great learning. This woman he does not name, but she is supposed to be the same as Trotula of Ruggiero, whose reputation at that period was world-wide. At Salernum, women were engaged in the preparation of