Earlier Lectures Lectures

“Doctor, doctor, gimme the news: Diagnosis 2000 years removed” by Susanna Pilny

We are happy to announce our first presenter for October, Susanna Pilny, with her presentation “Doctor, doctor, gimme the news: Diagnosis 2000 years removed.” Susanna has an MPhil in Classics from Trinity College Dublin and an MSc in Biological and Biomolecular Science, with a focus on microbiology and infection biology, from University College Dublin. She is currently a data analyst, but still spends her summers volunteering at the Agora Excavations in Athens (during non-Covid years) and her spare time pursuing independent scholarship. You can follow Susanna on Twitter (@plinytheshorter).

Her presentation focuses on how to diagnose ancient illnesses. She has provided us with the following abstract:

“We often take it at face value when experts tell us that ancient peoples suffered from specific diseases. But how do you go about diagnosing someone who is 2000 years dead? And how confident can you really be in this diagnosis? 

I will walk viewers through the pitfalls of attempting to diagnose the diseases of people long past. Problems include: differences in modern and ancient understanding of health, disease, and medicine; translation problems; diseases that no longer exist; and genetic mutations of current diseases. Then, using malaria in Classical Greece as an example, I will explain how one might attempt a retrospective diagnosis. This discussion will broadly use modern scientific knowledge to analyze textual and archaeological evidence from ancient Greece.”

Susanna has asked us to share the following content warnings with our audience: human remains (i.e. bones) will be shown.