Minna Braun

In October 1919, Minna Braun, a young Berlin nurse, took an overdose of morphine and sleeping pills with the intention of committing suicide. Several hours later, her body, seemingly lifeless, was found in the forest known as Grunewald. A physician declared her dead and she was placed in a coffin. 14 hours later, while Braun’s […]

The Frog Test

Prior to the invention of immunological pregnancy tests in the 1960s, women relied on the very widespread and popular “frog test” to determine pregnancies. This method was invented around 1930 and required the injection of the patient’s blood or urine under the skin of a small living animal, often a frog or a toad—hence the […]

Clara Möller-Cobrug

Given that my last two entries focused on the topic of infectious disease and hygiene, I would like to stay with the zeitgeist and cast light on an undervalued artist, who sadly—as her death date indicates—fell victim to the influenza pandemic over 100 years ago: Clara Möller-Coburg (1869-1918). Möller-Coburg was educated at the Damenakademie des […]

Mary Wortley Montagu

The history of Western virology can be traced back to observations made by Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) amongst harems in the Ottoman Empire. The wife of the ambassador to Constantinople, Wortley Montagu observed how through the practice of inoculation—also referred to as variolation—smallpox immunity was obtained by injecting a healthy person with pox puss from […]

The Bidet

Since we are currently talking a lot about hygiene, I wanted to dedicate this post to a sanitary amenity that has meanwhile lost its original societal role: the bidet. Invented in France in the 17th century, its main function was to serve as a post-coital vaginal douche. Up until the 1960s (when the pill took […]

Perla Ovitz

Perla Ovitz was born into a Jewish family. She had eight siblings, of which six were—like herself—little people. Together the family formed a performance troupe and sang in Yiddish, Romanian, Russian, German and Hungarian. The smaller siblings performed on stage, while the taller ones ran the backstage area. After the beginning of WWII, the family […]

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier’s incredible body of work would have been unknown to us, if she did not fail to pay her storage payments in old age. As a result, her possessions were auctioned off and this huge body of (mostly undeveloped) photographs was discovered. Much of her life, spanning from 1926-2009, remains a secret, which is […]

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