it takes time to learn the hazards of new technology, diet, health practices
Major errors such as the miasma theory of cholera, etc.
Cell phones, games, laptops the new tobacco?
The miasma theory (also called the miasmatic theory) held that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia or the Black Death were caused by a miasma (Μίασμα, ancient Greek: “pollution”), a noxious form of “bad air”, also known as “night air”.
The theory held that the origin of epidemics were due to a miasma, emanating from rotting organic matter
Though miasma theory is typically associated with the spread of disease, some academics in the early nineteenth century suggested that the theory extended to other conditions as well, e.g. one could become obese by inhaling the odor of food.
The miasma theory was accepted from ancient times in Europe, India, and China.
The theory was eventually given up by scientists and physicians after 1880.
They instead accepted the germ theory of disease: specific germs, not miasma, caused specific diseases.
However the belief, based on miasma theory, that it was the highest urban priority to clean up the garbage and get rid of the smell remained a strong belief in the popular culture.
The word miasma comes from ancient Greek and means “pollution”. The idea also gave rise to the name malaria(literally “bad air”) through medieval Italian.
Book of Sebastian Petrycy published in Kraków in 1613 about prevention against “bad air”.
Miasma was considered to be a poisonous vapor or mist filled with particles from decomposed matter (miasmata) that caused illnesses.
The miasmatic position was that diseases were the product of environmental factors such as contaminated water, foul air, and poor hygienic conditions.
Such infection was not passed between individuals but would affect individuals within the locale that gave rise to such vapors.
It was identifiable by its foul smell. It was also initially believed that miasmas were propagated through worms from ulcers within those affected by a plague.
In India, there was also a miasma theory and the Indians take credit for being the first to put this miasma theory into clinical practice. The Indians invented paan, a gambir paste, that was believed to help prevent miasma, it was considered as the first antimiasmatic application. This gambir tree is found in Southern India and Sri Lanka.
In the 1st century BC, the Roman architectural writer Vitruvius described the potential effects of miasma (Latin nebula) from fetid swamplands when siting a city: For when the morning breezes blow toward the town at sunrise, if they bring with them mist from marshes and, mingled with the mist, the poisonous breath of creatures of the marshes to be wafted into the bodies of the inhabitants, they will make the site unhealthy.
The miasmatic theory of disease remained popular in the Middle Ages and a sense of effluvia contributed to Robert Boyle’s Suspicions about the Hidden Realities of the Air.
In the 1850s, miasma was used to explain the spread of cholera in London and in Paris, partly justifying Haussmann’s latter renovation of the French capital.
The disease was said to be preventable by cleansing and scouring of the body and items.
Dr. William Farr, the assistant commissioner for the 1851 London census, was an important supporter of the miasma theory. He believed that cholera was transmitted by air, and that there was a deadly concentration of miasmatanear the River Thames’ banks.
Such a belief was in part accepted because of the general lack of air quality in urbanized areas.
The wide acceptance of miasma theory during the cholera outbreaks overshadowed the partially correct theory brought forth by John Snow that cholera was spread through water.
This slowed the response to the major outbreaks in the Soho district of London and other areas.
The Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale (1820–1910)was a proponent of the theory and worked to make hospitals sanitary and fresh-smelling. It was stated in ‘Notes on Nursing for the Labouring Classes’ (1860) that Nightingale would “keep the air [the patient] breathes as pure as the external air.
Fear of miasma registered in many early nineteenth century warnings concerning what was termed “unhealthy fog”.
The presence of fog strongly indicated the presence of miasma.
The miasmas behaved like smoke or mist, blown with air currents, wafted by winds.
It did not simply travel on air, it changed the air through which it propagated. The atmosphere was infected by miasma, as diseased people were.
Many believed miasma was magical, and was able to change the properties of the air and atmosphere completely.