The History of Ophthalmology.
Volume One (Parts 1 and 2).
Richey L. Waugh, Jr.,
The Eye and Man in Ancient Egypt.
Ostend 1995. (two volumes) $390+ $19 shipping
J. P. Wayenborgh, P.0. Box 96,
B ‑ 8400 Ostend 3,
REVIEWED BY MARK J. MANNIS Sacramento, California
"My Refuge is my Eye, my Protection is my Eye,
my Strength is my Eye, my Power is my Eye" . (From the Pyramid Texts).
In a household in which both an ophthalmologist and a university student of archeology reside, artifacts and cataracts are not so unusual a combination of topics for conversation at the dinner table. Perhaps for this reason, more than one faction of our household was interested in the two recently published volumes by Richey L. Waugh from J. P. Wayenborgh Press.
Georg Ebers's 1889 publication on the papyrus that bears his name gave the world a first glimpse at ancient Egyptian ophthalmology. Dr. Waugh's two‑volume treatise discloses the historian's remarkable attempt to bring together religious, literary, and historical sources that elucidate the eye and man in ancient Egypt.
Beginning with three chapters on prehistoric Egypt,
Part One provides an interesting chapter on hieroglyphics and the language of ancient Egypt followed by a chronology of the Egyptian dynasties. The book then turns to ancient sources of medical information including the Ebers papyrus and numerous other medical, surgical, and veterinary writings. An overview chapter follows on ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. The remainder of this volume is a catalogue of conditions and their remedies. It describes interesting therapeutic concoctions such as the combination of colocynth, ochre, crocodile dung, red natron, honey, and resin, which is made into a poultice for external application to restore diminished sight. This volume closes with a chapter explaining what is known about medical personnel as described in hieroglyphs.
is somewhat more difficult to wade through, since it deals heavily in archaeologic and hieroglyphic documentation. There is far less expository writing and more scholarly textual analysis. The patron god of the oculists is described as is evidence descriptive of our historic professional colleagues in ancient Egypt. There is also a fascinating chapter on
the remedies of the Christian Copts from the tenth century A.D., demonstrating that ancient Egyptian thought survived throughout centuries of dominating Greek and Roman influence. Much of the last half of Part Two is occupied with annotation and appendices.
Both volumes are a testimony to painstaking historic scholarship. These books demonstrate that the eye was clearly venerated as a vital organ in ancient Egypt as exemplified in the familiar symbol and amulet, the Eye of Horus. As the legend goes, Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, lost an eye during a battle as he sought revenge in an act of filial devotion, his eye was restored by Thoth, and the eye became a symbol of healing, welIness, and power. In the Pyramid Texts, the Eye of Horus is mentioned no fewer than 250 times and is attributed the power to cleanse, protect, restore, and refresh. Dr. Waugh has done a fine job in adding these books to the shelf accessible to the English speaker interested in the history of ophthalmology in the ancient world.
Extract from: AMERICAN JOURNAL OF OPHTHALMOLOGY, JANUARY 1996
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