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Diorama showing a 1400s consultation with a physician, United Kingdom, 1970-1979

Several scenes from a mediaeval encyclopaedia have been combined in this diorama to show the tasks performed by a physician. On the left, bloodletting is being performed. Some diseases such as fever were thought to be caused by too much blood in the body. Removing the excess blood was believed to cure the patient. On the right, uroscopy examination of the urine, is being carried out. The colour, smell and taste of urine were thought to help diagnose patient’s illnesses. The encyclopaedia De proprietatibus rerum (The Order of Things) was written in Latin by Bartholomaeus Anglicus, a Franciscan monk living in the 1200s. The encyclopaedia covered theology, medicine, botany, astronomy, zoology and other sciences of the time.

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Glossary: uroscopy

The diagnosis of diseases by visual inspection of urine for blood or pus etc. It dates back to ancient Egypt, India and Babylon. It is considered limited in modern western medical practice, as it can lead to incorrect diagnosis.

Glossary: bloodletting

Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.

Glossary: diorama

A model with three-dimensional objects, often sculpture, with a realistic painted background.