Helen King, born in Wimbledon, UK, in 1957. Ph.D. from University College London. Wellcome Trust Research Fellow and Reader in the History of Classical Medicine at the University of Reading.
Fellow (1 February 2001 – 30 June 2001)
During my five-month period at NIAS I completed five out of six chapters of my Routledge monograph, “The Disease of Virgins, a study of the disease of ‘green sickness’ or chlorosis”. This forms part of my long-term project on sixteenth-century gynaecology, by looking at a specific disease category for which it is possible to trace the origins and changes in theory and treatment over a period from c.1550 to the early twentieth century. I substantially altered the structure of the book, as a result of coming to see the fundamental changes in a very different way: I now begin with English vernacular medicine, where ‘green sickness’ appears as a digestive disorder common to both sexes and related to jaundice, before looking at the chronologically slightly later Latin disease concept of the ‘disease of virgins’, a menstrual condition. The interaction between these two leads to the ‘normal’ form of green sickness, in which the primary meaning of ‘green’ shifts from altered skin colour to a metaphorical sense of ‘young’ or ‘sexually inexperienced’. I then focus on the menstrual and dietary themes through the later history of the disease, before examining the role of laboratory medicine in the ‘death’ of chlorosis. I have also checked some editions of the Gynaikeia, a collection of gynaecological texts held in the Netherlands, and have added it to my database of owners of this collection, in preparation of an article on the uses of these texts up to the nineteenth century.
Thanks to the support of my theme group, I have also completed and submitted the manuscript of my introductory book, “Greek and Roman Medicine”, to the contracted publishers, Bristol Classical Press/Duckworth. This was only possible because of the pool of talent assembled within the group and its associate members.