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Linné on line arrow Linnaeus as a Physician arrow Linnaeus’ Importance to the Art and Science of Medicine arrow Some Examples of the Contents of Dissertations

Some Examples of the Contents of Dissertations

a. Dietetics
The importance of food substances for health was treated in the dissertation “Det förändrade köket” (The new cuisine, 1757). Here we find a review of what previously constituted people’s diets, that is, prior to the 18th century, and how certain plants had been replaced by others, either beneficially or detrimentally. The contribution of various animals to diet is also included in the catalogue. Hot spices accelerate aging, and the amounts of sugar render fibers thin and weaken the body’s tissues. We can thank the Hindus for tea, coffee, and chocolate, but Americans are to be blamed for the poisonous tobacco that has plagued the entire world. This was thus something that was realized as early as the 18th century.

In the dissertation “Ätliga Frukter” (Edible fruits, 1763) it is pointed out that humans are most closely related to apes and have the same kind of hands and teeth suitable for picking and eating fruit: four front incisors to take a bite of the fruit, two canine teeth to shred it, molars to grind it. Ripe fruits are put forward as healthful food if they are eaten in proper amounts. The dissertation provides an inventory and systematization of berries, drupe fruits, apples, siliquae (pod fruits), grains, and nuts.

b. Pathology
The dissertation “Hinder för läkekonsten” (Obstacles to medicine, 1752) treated the need for detailed knowledge of diseases and medicines. It is claimed that many medicines are neglected owing to ignorance. According to the author, the reasons medicines are not made use of are:

  1. routine
  2. differing theories rooted in different times
  3. neglected determination of the nature of a disease
  4. hasty and unfounded notions about poisons and distinguishing them from medicines that differ from poisons only in their different strength
  5. the mistakes of quacks
  6. physicians’ cautiousness and fear of doing harm
  7. overly small doses of medicine
  8. the lack of botanical knowledge among pharmacists that often leads them to sell false instead of genuine plants
  9. use of composites, that is, mixtures of non-compatible medicines
  10. ignorance of natural classes
  11. non-use of household remedies
  12. lack of travel to Europe
  13. neglecting to study botanical writings
  14. carelessness in producing medicines
  15. recklessness in regard to the proper season for collecting medicinal plants and storing them in the proper manner

c. Intoxicating Substances
A review of various intoxicating substances in terms of their effects is found in the dissertation “Berusningsmedel” (Intoxicating substances, 1761). Discussed here are the effects of fermented and distilled spirits and of intoxicating substances that do not require preparation but rather can be taken directly from nature. The effects of opium, seeds from thorn apples, belladonna, yarrow, saffron, tobacco, etc, are described. An interesting observation involves addiction and abstinence among those who drink alcohol for extended periods. Linnaeus clearly depicts “the miserable vodka drinker who gets out of bed in the morning depressed, shaking, melancholy, and sick in all his limbs…” but when he replenishes the vodka, he goes on, the individual becomes content and healthy “until the vodka has dissipated.” Abstinence and side effects are described in detail. He has theories about how the body is affected by alcohol, but they are wrong. Linnaeus notes that yarrow (Achillea millefolium) sometimes replaced hops in brewing beer, entailing that “people would become very dizzy and crazed.”

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