Throughout the millennia of human history clues to predict the future have been highly prized, especially so when that future related to prognosis of disease and disability. External cues from the heavens, in the weather, via tea leaves, or with playing cards have played major parts in the prediction of health. The logic of using more immediate evidence from physical signs or bodily fluids was evident to early practitioners. Humans share the trait with most other mammals of daily personal interest in their urine and in situations of illness scrutiny of it was obvious. Hippocratic writings documented uroscopy, as it came to be called, 2500 years ago and over the ensuing centuries the practice attained imaginative prognostications as healers examined the gross characteristics of urine in flasks called matulas and speculated on the course of illness. The visual image of a “piss prophet” gazing at a matula served as the main symbol of physicians in art until only about 200 years ago when the stethoscope replaced the flask as medicine’s badge of office.
We begin this electronic journal with a respectful tip of the matula to that original essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne who began his eclectic personal observations around in 1572 when he was around 39 years of age. It is likely that Montaigne was well acquainted with physicians and matulas, as his father purportedly died of urinary stone disease and Montaigne himself began to suffer from them in 1578.
What impulses compel us humans to share our observations and thoughts may someday be revealed through the matula’s diagnostic successors such as the MRI and other marvels of imagination, but there is no arguing that those impulses are strong and prevalent in our species. This blog (finally, I have used the awkward term) is a new forum for the monthly email broadcast I called “What’s New” that I started in 2007 in our Department of Urology at the University of Michigan and with the help of friends have continued regularly since then.
These little spaces and sentences will be filled by things that a.) catch my attention and b.) I hope will interest some readers. For the most part this will be an alternative space and presentation of “What’s New.”
David A. Bloom March 26, 2013