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The Golden Wand of Medicine: A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine

Overview

The Caduceus, two entwined snakes set upon a rod, was the ancient symbol of Hermes, the Greek god of merchants. Today, it is a common and popular symbol of the medical and allied professions. This book traces the use of the caduceus symbol and answers the question of how it came to be the symbol of medicine.

The work begins with a discussion of the symbol's origin as the magic wand of Hermes/Mercury, the Greco-Roman messenger of the gods, and the later identification of Hermes ...

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Overview

The Caduceus, two entwined snakes set upon a rod, was the ancient symbol of Hermes, the Greek god of merchants. Today, it is a common and popular symbol of the medical and allied professions. This book traces the use of the caduceus symbol and answers the question of how it came to be the symbol of medicine.

The work begins with a discussion of the symbol's origin as the magic wand of Hermes/Mercury, the Greco-Roman messenger of the gods, and the later identification of Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth, whose characteristics included wisdom and eloquence. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Friedlander says, the caduceus was associated with wise and eloquent individuals, including some physicians. However, in the early 19th century it was adopted by a medical publisher as a sign, not that he published medical books, but that he was a commercial deliverer of information. Friedlander goes on to indicate that in 1902 the sign was adopted by the U.S. Army as the insignia of its Medical Department. The sign became widely recognized after the exposure it had during World War I. It became frequently used and, once popular, bred popularity. This book will be of interest to those in medical fields, medical historians, and those interested in symbology and iconology.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

WALTER J. FRIEDLANDER is Professor Emeritus of Medical Humanities and Neurology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.

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Table of Contents

Foreword

Introduction

Definition of the Caduceus

Development of the Structure of the Caduceus

Hermes

Egyptian Hermes

Caduceus in Medicine: Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries

Caduceus as a Printer's Mark

U.S. Army's Medical Department Adopts the Caduceus

Present

Summary

Appendixes: Persistence of Confusion About Hermes

History of the American Medical Association's Official Symbol

Selected Bibliography

Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2001

    a 'must read' for any history lover

    This book is comprehensive yet concise; Dr. Friedlander brings to life the story of an ubiquitous symbol so common we take it for granted. The in-depth examination of this symbol will undoubtedly surprise those who expect a dry iteration of facts and dates. Who would have guessed this serious symbol of the medical profession had its roots in the spicy lives of mythological characters!

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