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

By Walter J. Friedlander | Go to book overview

3
Development of the Structure
of the Caduceus

Having defined the topic, the caduceus, the next step should be a consideration of its origin. However, before doing this, it is important to add a qualification.

Theories about the origin of the caduceus are at best tenuous, even though some authors present their theories with great certainty. This is probably more of a manifestation of the author's personality than of his state of knowledge. One of the things that has contributed to these uncertainties has been the attempt by some authors to ascribe the origin entirely to a process of dispersion. For example, there is a theory that because the Babylonians used a certain ophidian symbol and the Greeks at a later date also used something like this, it must follow that the Greeks copied from the Babylonians.

In contrast to this mode of origin, another possible explanation of why different groups of people have come to use the same symbol or imagery is that there is a commonality among men in the conceptualization of symbols which has been arrived at independently. Regardless of why it occurs, experience certainly demonstrates that it does occur and one of the most widespread symbols that exhibits this commonality is the serpent.


UBIQUITY OF OPHIOLATRY

Stenn summarized very well the universality of serpent worship:

So great indeed has been the attention . . . [to serpents] that whole cults were dedicated to it and fables and superstitious practices regarding it became a part of the culture of all peoples. The American Indian paid homage to the rattlesnake, the Asiatic to the cobra, the African to the python. The

-13-

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

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Medical Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Foreword xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Note 3
  • 2 - Definition of the Caduceus 5
  • Notes 12
  • 3 - Development of the Structure of the Caduceus 13
  • Notes 29
  • 4 - Hermes 31
  • Notes 59
  • 5 - Egyptian Hermes 61
  • Notes 81
  • 6 - Caduceus in Medicine: Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries 83
  • 7 - Caduceus as a Printer's Mark 109
  • 8 - U. S. Army's Medical Department Adopts the Caduceus 127
  • Notes 144
  • 9 - Present 145
  • Notes 154
  • 10 - Summary 155
  • Appendix I Persistence of Confusion About Hermes 159
  • Notes 165
  • Appendix II History of the American Medical Association's Official Symbol 167
  • Notes 169
  • Selected Bibliography 171
  • Index 175
  • About the Author 183
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