ABC-CLIO

The Golden Wand of Medicine

A History of the Caduceus Symbol in Medicine

by Walter J. Friedlander

 

The Caduceus, two entwined snakes set upon a rod, was the ancient symbol of Hermes, the Greek god of merchants. Today, it is the symbol of medical and allied professions. Friedman traces the use of the caduceus symbol and explains why it came to be the symbol of medicine.

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April 1992

Praeger

Pages 200
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Health & Wellness/Diseases and Conditions
  • Hardcover

    978-0-313-28023-8

    $86.00

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    978-0-313-06579-8

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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.

Table of Contents

ForewordIntroductionDefinition of the CaduceusDevelopment of the Structure of the CaduceusHermesEgyptian HermesCaduceus in Medicine: Sixteenth Through Nineteenth CenturiesCaduceus as a Printer's MarkU.S. Army's Medical Department Adopts the CaduceusPresentSummaryAppendixes: Persistence of Confusion About HermesHistory of the American Medical Association's Official SymbolSelected BibliographyIndex

Reviews/Endorsements

Reviews

Many readers will find this book pure bliss, and every medical library should have it.—New England Journal of Medicine

Dr. Friedlander clarifies great thoroughness, immense learning, and charmingly self-deprecatory wit. . . . Many readers will find this book pure bliss, and every medical library should have it.—Journal of International Business Studies, First Quarter 1993

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