“A steampunk’s dream come true, the ‘galvanic spectacles’ from circa 1905 had dark green lenses and a plastic frame concealing a secondary, metal frame underneath with electric wiring. The glasses purported to send a ‘continuous stream of electricity to the optic nerve,’ the benefits of which, the manufacturers assumed, would be obvious to the consumer. […] Electric shocks to your eyes may give you a lot of steampunk cred, but they will not improve your vision.” – From Quackery’s Eye Care Hall of Shame
The path of medical science hasn’t always run smooth. For every eradication of polio there have been brief dalliances with the not-so-wonder substance strychnine, Marie Curie’s radium-laden energy drink and cure-all, and the judicious application of leeches to fix what ails ya. Dr. Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen’s new overview Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything illuminates the fads and the snake oil as medical science grappled with the new and the unexpected.
Quackery cheerfully skips through medical history, putting good ideas in other contexts alongside bad ideas full stop in a parade of missteps. Put a hold on it today and wonder at how resilient human beings are that we survived all that!