Historical Medical Geography


The research question for this review is:  How many “unique people” visit this site?

By unique, I mean unique names.  Individuals may return several days per week, and each day gets counted as an individual person, and each page they go to as a unique visit.  But at the end of the week, one person who visited several times per day, daily, will be counted as at least seven individuals.  So I worked on a way to evaluate the numbers of unique people who come to this page/site.  For this review, I focused on the main page.

To accomplish this, I reviewed the numbers of visits, developed an equation for calculating numbers of visitors for entire 5.5 years, based on the last three years, and came up with estimates/guesstimates on the numbers of unique visitors.

In general, the average number of pages visited per visitor is between 1.5 and 1.75.  The value 1.5 means that approximately 33% see just one page and 66% see two pages. (1:1 is 50% see one page, 50% see two pages.)



This first set of graphs depict values per period, illustrated as quarterly and yearly.  These are not cumulative data.  Over time, the numbers of followers continued to increase.  Again, this is the number who visited just my main blog page, no special pages on the topics I review.  Typically, a person first visits a special topics page, then looks for the main page to see who the author is.

For the first quarter in 2015, which I call “Spring”, I had 77,474 visits. (Jan-Feb-March is actually Winter, but I called the end of the year “Winter” for this review.)

A cumulative of this period is as follows:


This is a conservative estimate, based on the 1.5 value noted earlier.  It takes into account the influx of new members each month, and then estimate how many of them return over the remaining periods, per month and quarter.

The conservative estimate of number of people impacted by this site in just under 90,000 people.

It is estimated that about half of these visitors are doing work or research in medical GIS.  The other half are visiting for information about medical history and/or medical botany, and/or due to links from other places such as LinkedIn, ScoopIt!, Tumblr, and a few other sites that re-post much of my work.  (I recently learned get on the average 1300 to 1500 re-posts per new blog/home page posting, per special search engines, and about 15 reposts of my work by other ScoopIt! sites.).

The less conservative estimate for individual impacted, by my pages only (not the LinkedIn and others), increases this number to 100,000 or more.


So, I need to add–many  thanks to all you out there revisiting this site.

ESRI still has links to the historically important historical medical geography maps and articles I have posted, so I appreciate this support from ESRI as well.

I am in the process of translating the text (handwritten script, in Old German, using Old German medical and geographic terminology) and determining how to reproduce the famous disease map of Friedrich Schnurrer, ca. 1827 (figure below).  It is the first map of diseases, globally, based on his review of the literature for the time.  His work focuses on the famous epidemics and diseases documented by earlier writer.  Schnurrer was an expert in Chinese culture, and perhaps produced these maps due to the cholera impacts on China before it turned into a pandemic.




The theme for these past few months has been cultural medicine and medical geography.

The history of the Russian impact on medical geography, in particular zoonotic and combined zoonotic-anthroponotic diseases is a topic that really doesn’t get much attention from contemporary animal epidemiologists.  I believe I reached a good stopping point for this topic for a while.

A very unique historical medical geography topic that came to my attention was an epidemic that took place on Nantucket Island in 1763.  For more than two centuries the cause for this epidemic has returned to the journals.  In a recent write up on this piece of New England medical history it was speculated that this disease could be fungal in origin, a proposal that fit in very well with the sequent occupancy way of modeling past diseases. But most people felt it was yellow fever, which due to the times of the year it happened I suspected had to be wrong, so I had to apply my predictive, or in this case retrospective modeling technique to this disease.

About the same time, another epidemic erupted in the James River area in Virginia.  It was of a skin disease known as ringworm and had infected people residing considerably inland along the river.  I first came upon mention of this disease in 1982 after purchasing a copy of Benjamin Smith Barton’s 1798 to 1804 treatise of the first herbal medicines documented in United States history.  A single line in passing mentioned the possible use of Eupatorium perfoliatum, commonly known as ague weed or boneset to treat the James River Ringworm epidemic.  

The one thing peculiar about this epidemic was where it took place and the fact that it was so isolated from much of the rest of the country, which is how it earned its name.  That geographic feature of this disease is what made me decide to explore its history in detail to determine exactly what its cause could be and why it took place in such a remote place.

After a fairly thorough review of the populations of this part of the country and in particular of African and African-American (including Caribbean and Sudanese) slave culture,  I found ample amounts of medical geography evidence, in particular that of my sequent occupancy method of reviewing diseases, indicating it was a primarily a case of tinea cruris (today we term this ‘jock itch’), which apparently was very severe back then.  The following are some of the details of this discovery, which is covered and illustrated in more detail in the African and Caribbean Slaves section of my historical public health studies posted at this site.


In medical history, James River is best known for its famous epidemic that struck the settlers when they ran out of food supplies.  Desperate for nutrition sources, many of the settlers ate a local plant, Datura stramonium, which made them very ill and gave a number of them hallucinations. For some it even resulted in death.  

From this point on, this plant had a common name–Jamestown Weed–a name later modified or adulterated into its common name Jimsonweed.

James River however has another important historical tale that to date doesn’t appear in too many books or historical writings about Virginia’s history.  Around 1766, there was this disease that ran rampant through certain parts of the state, in particular in communities situated well upstream along James River, quite a distance from most of civilization.  The lands located in mid-western Virginia, just east of the mountain ranges, were considered primary growing fields for the most important crop at this time–tobacco.  This disease had a very unique spatial distribution for the time and so was given the name “James River Ring Worm”, most likely by Thomas Jefferson [page link].

The majority of people residing in this part of the colony were local residents engaged in the traditional American pioneer lifestyle, some were merchants and farmers, and still others farmers with a large goal in mind, developing your own plantation.  But to run a farm like it was some sort of factory we need the right sorts of help, and that is where the history of slavery comes into this piece of Virginia’s history.  By the 1760s, several fairly large plantations were established, with some families owning large amounts of crop land on which to grown their tobacco.  The Jeffersons was one such family engaged in such an enterprise, with Peter Jefferson, the father of the famous president-to-be Thomas Jefferson, in possession of a large amount of this perfect tobacco growing country.  He died in 1764 leaving his plantations to Thomas, by which time the Jeffersons were legal owners of one of the largest number of slaves in this state.

Remember, this is a story of slaves, health and disease, not one about the many other stories that have surfaced about the Jeffersonian part of slavery history we often hear about, such as the fact that Thomas fathered a child with one of these slaves or that a number of slave families have now linked themselves to this famous piece of American history.  According to a story told by Thomas, probably to Philadelphia botanist Benjamin Smith Barton (but also likely to have been shared with the French writer and explorer of the United States, Louis Valentin), there were a number people living in the backwoods part of Virginia suffering from an unusual skin disease as early as 1766.

To some onlookers this disease probably reminded them of the common disease associated with people around the world–ringworm–an important disease to understand when you are a slave buyer.  But this ringworm was peculiar because it aggregated about the waist and stomach area on down to the thighs.  It was a fairly consistent reddish color, as if a dye were applied to the surface of the skin, and most importantly, it affected mostly males.

The philosophy for the time was that disease could be due to miasm wandering about in the air, some form of infectious material that once it entered the body began to create havoc with our physiology and make way for other problems to develop such as fevers, asthma, rheumatism, dropsy, or consumption (tuberculosis).  Also according to the philosophy for the time, since different regions had different climates, weather patterns, topography, etc., these different regions also manifested diseases in different ways.  Such was the philosophy for those who believed in medical geography during this time and is how and why James River Ringworm earned its name.

A possible migration route  trichophyton rubrum or mentagrophytes into the United States as the cause for tinea cruris or James River Ringworm.  A hierarchical diffusion route is presented on this map (non-hierarchical is more likely the case and is illustrated on the main page for this topic).  Yellow lines are borders of population density regions, grey lines with arrows represent the diffusion-migration route to the continent’s interior.  Red polygons define clusters regions for the various plantations. The numbers represent the case clusters identified, the method for which is also detailed on the main page for this disease. (#1 is Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello.).

Unfortunately, Thomas Jefferson never provides us with the exact details as to where this epidemic existed or even whether or not it infected only or mostly his slaves.  What we do know is that he is apparently the first one to ever document this epidemic and its unique location(s), suggesting that more than likely its existence and his knowledge about its presence had much to do with the family’s plantations.  With this in mind, I developed a way to analyze and map this disease using a series of spatial epidemiological techniques I have been applying to other diseases of the past.  I first utilized this method to show how Asiatic cholera that struck the Great Plains along the Oregon trail was different from the western cholera or dysentery that struck the western half of this route in Oregon in 1852.  I have since used it to review other diseases of the past, adding another step to each of these analyses engaged in over the past two years.

Figure from my Thesis (Cholera on the Oregon Trail)  

With this analyses, I was able to conclude that the ringworm infection that impacted more than likely the slaves was tinea cruris.  This tinea was much worse back then due to the period it had to develop and the lack of any effective way of treating or knowledge of how to prevent it during the late 18th century.  In addition, this tinea in a modern sense has potentially four fungal causes capable of infecting humans in this fashion, two of which I removed from the list for geographic reasons.  This leaves us to only consider two potential causes for the James River Ringworm epidemic of 1766 to approximately 1806–the first is the most common form of fungus responsible for this disease Trichophyton rubrum, the second a species linked mostly to domestic animals like dogs, cats and horses, Trichophyton mentagrophytes.

My personal bet is on the former, although Jefferson like most others from this time did favor horseback riding, and due to their value, may have had horses present on each and every one of his plantations.


Left:  Tinea imbricata, common to Africa, perhaps not common or persistent in North America if brought in by slaves.  Center and Right:  The most common bacterium responsible for tinea cruris, Trichophyton rubrum is growing in the petri dish to the right. (By the way, doesn’t the ringworm mark resemble someone like a young George Washington or John Singleton Copley?)


The mapping of this disease is what enabled me to determine where it most likely took place amongst Jefferson’s and Jefferson’s friends’ plantations throughout middle Virginia, along the James River and its southern Fork.

James River Ringworm is one very basic example of the African Slavery history and how it relates to public health history during the late 1700s and early 1800s.   Other cultural medical geography topics I have started to add pages on pertain to African/African-American demographic medical and disease history, foreign born disease pattens and their behaviors in this country, the classic field of study for historical epidemiologists–Native American medical history, and travel and migration related disease patterns such as the flow of disease along the Pacific Rim routes.

Felkin’s map of Pandemic Isoclines (the lines) and wind patterns over the United States

The following historically important disease maps have been posted.

Both Aitken’s and Felkin’s work have another page providing additional information about their personal histories and/or books.  Charles Denison’s work is historically important to American medical history.  He was the first physician to develop an entire medical facility devoted mostly to tuberculosis treatment based upon the documented impacts of the high elevation,  mountain air environment setting upon the cause for this disease, which at the time was yet to be discovered.  (Denison has a second set of maps on the healthiness of the mountain environment for treating phthisis (tuberculosis), to be reviewed next time around.)


A section of Denison’s map



A section of William Aitken’s map

Since African/African-American health is the focus for many of the projects I engaged in during recent months, I am putting together my history of medicine resources pertaining to slavery and health, including coverage on culturally-bound syndromes [part1, part2], culturally-linked diseases and syndromes, and culturally-related disease states and medical conditions [link to the main African Diseases page].  Examples of culturally-bound syndromes include Clay Pica (see Malacia Africanorum page below) and certain psychological syndrome related to the practice of voodoo (to be referred to as “Opi” or “Opa” here, its 18th century name).  Culturally-linked African diseases include such conditions as African Cardiomyopathy and Sickle Cell.  Culturally-related but not culturally-caused medical conditions include the more basic problems we often hear about, such as the late diagnosis of breast cancer in older African women or the impact of diabetes on the African elder’s quality of life, and a number of microorganism related diseases such as yaws, bejel, nomi, and kuru.

There are a number of controversial topics I have reviewed so far regarding African culture (West African, Sudan-African, and Caribbean by the way), but none not as controversial as those related to slavery.  The following African-, Carribean- and African-American related health or medical practices or conditions are detailed in my section on this subject, and represent some of the first articles ever published by United States medical journals on these topics (more to come):

The most controversial of the above articles is on infibulation. a Sudanese-African (and typically Muslim-Middle East) tradition indicative of slave in-migration from places other than the Gold Coast of the African continent (for more, see http://www.accmuk.com or http://www.quora.com/What-is-infibulation).  This is possibly the first medical journal article published in the U.S. on this topic.  The article on Malacia Africanorum (‘calm of Africans’) is documentation of clay pica, a behavior still documented in contemporary medical journals and practiced a lot in the Caribbean.  The review of Jestis Weed is an example of that old controversy in ethnobotany and plant medicines–who owns the rights or claims to the rights involving the intellectual property attached to cultural medicines? the one who practices it, or the one to first publish this method of treatment? The owner of the slave who gave his “master” this knowledge no doubt favored the former, but of course fell victim to the latter.  The last article is an example of a unique occupational disease related to African and African-American “servants” living in the New York-New England region, manumission or not.

I have also started posting the theories of different doctors about the first disease to be mapped repeatedly in U.S. medical history–yellow fever.  These are usually kept close to each other on this blog.  For examples see:


Sequent Occupancy in Nantucket, ca. 1600 – 1850

Aside from topics related to African medical history, there was one malingering epidemic I had to work through these past several months involving a Native American group residing just south of Massachusetts on Nantucket Island.  In 1763, there was an unusual epidemic that took place in this setting which many have considered to be yellow fever.  For the most part this is right.  But there was that malingering problem with the late November re-eruption of this disease that gave it its name “Extraordinary Disease” by its reporter Reverend Thomas Oliver.  Mosquitoes are required for yellow fever and the likelihood of a mosquito still thriving at that latitude in mid to late November, in high enough quantities to cause so many deaths, is, for lack of a better word, extraordinary.  My hypothesis is that these deaths had to be due to something that was a fever epidemic, but not yellow fever, but one more likely to happen in late fall and early winter.   For this reason, I again applied my various spatio-temporal modeling techniques to this disease and determined the November and December cases were probably due to typhus, a result expected by epidemiologists trained in historical epidemiology mapping and research and familiar with this period in medical history.

The points here are several.  First, the ability to map and analyze a disease in order to explain or predict its behaviors is an important GIS skill.  Second, these diseases and the education we get by reviewing this past is always helpful to the field of epidemiology as a whole. This way of interpreting diseases is very applicable to work in other aspects of this field such as homeland security, bioterrorism, livestock epidemiology, and those concerned about epidemic disease resurgence patterns brought on by population growth, antibiotic resistance, changes in land use patterns, and global warming.

Two of Alfred Haviland’s several maps on Cancer and Geology/Soil Chemistry, 1875 – to be covered next time around

Geosophia is nothing else than the knowledge of the qualities of the earth, and the knowledge of these qualities by those living amongst them.

Such was the synopsis of Johannes Christophorus Homann’s Dissertation entitled Medicinae Cum Geosophia Nexu, quam auspice deo propotio.

Written in Latin around 1720-1724, the title of this work translates to “The medical-geosophia connection, as proposed under the auspices of God”.

Homann is the first to define in writing a popular belief held for the time, which states that theosophy, geography, anthropology, health and medicine are all embraced by a single field known as Geosophia or geosophy.  The roots of this term are ‘Geo’ for ‘earth’, and ‘sophia’ for ‘knowing’ and ‘wisdom’.


This belief was very different from the much older, more traditional teachings of geomancy.  Geomancy essentially was a practice that required the art of predicting specific attributes for a given place or region.  Whereas geosophy involved the practice of observing and then explaining natural features and events based on previous knowledge and experience, geomancy involved the production of lines, points, circles, squares and other forms on a piece of paper or writing surface which are then interpreted and developed into some sort of message with special meaning.  Geosophy was linked to the art of map making, in particular precision map making skills which made use of geometry and mathematics and at times looked at the various unique forms of nature as expressions of divine art.  Geomancy was the search for meaning of the shapes and forms evolved from various clues provided, using mathematics as well, but in a more metaphysical way and often with sacred geometry  underlying its philosophy and ideology.  Geosophy usually adhered to a belief in the classical Christian God.  Geomancy relied more upon the natural God, or G-d, or spirit, or Creator, or Universal Energy.


Definitions of Geosophia, a term primarily of German use and application, in two European Foreign Language Dictionaries.

During its earliest years of use, from about 1729 to 1785, the term geosophy was considered synonymous with theosophy, even though the latter makes a direct reference to theos or God, whereas the former only refers to Earth.  Such a use of the term ‘geosophy’ during this time appeased both religious and non-religious groups, and in New York, or more accurately stated, New Netherlands history, it satisfied the pantheistic nature of the religious and non-religious settlers who believed in this natural philosophy tradition.  The first settlers of this region tended to believe in natural philosophy much the same way–the belief that God was, is and shall always be a part of nature.


The most religiously minded settlers devoted to natural theology considered nature to be a form of Divine Art.  Early New York female botanist Jane Colden, for example, demonstrated her attachment to the natural signs for plants and their uses, features important to her due to her work in plant identification (see Jane’s Plant Numerology).  In a review of the plants discussed by the Jesuit missionaries trying to convert America Indians in Canada, we find writings that demonstrate a fascination with plants and plant parts that bore the signs of trinity–for example a leaf with three lobes, and a plant bearing three kinds of leaves, both considered defining features for the sassafras tree.

Augustine Hermann (1605-1686), Counselor and metaphysician for Elizabeth Philips

The late 17th and early 18th centuries also defined a period of time when mysticism was honored, and the most important mystic of all locally, Jakob Boehme, had developed a popular movement along the Hudson River, involving members of the Filipse family.    The most traditional Boehmites supported his teachings of alchemy as a spiritual philosophy, with the mercury, sulphur and earth of Paracelsus considered representative of the various physical, spiritual and soul related parts of the body.     Another set of followers for this New Paracelsian movement were the Helmontians, Dutch individuals who took to the metaphysical claims in medicine made by the famous Dutch chemist Van Helmont, the famous professor from a Dutch University.


John Dee (1527-1608/9, source: wikipedia)

But there was also the philosophy of the British playing important roles in these social belief changes.  Christian Alchemist John Dee was an English Alchemist who was spreading his version of New Paracelsian philosophy to religious leader John Winthrop, Jr. of Connecticut.  From here it probably spread into the New York region by making its way westward into lower New York, primarily influencing areas east of the Hudson River and well distanced from the more traditionally motivated City of New York located to the south.  This manner of spread for new philosophies would continue to be seen in the years ahead, for example the next new form of medical electricity faith which took the route from Connecticut to New York in 1797.


In addition to Boehme, Van Helmont and Dee, there was the philosophy of a Bermudian scholar who removed to Harvard around 1649 to study Christian Alchemy.  George Starkey’s philosophy came a result of his education in the traditional writings on alchemy accompanied by his own personal communications with God, as he attempted to create the perfect philosopher’s stone, or as he called it “ens veneris”.  He managed to succeed in this venture by 1651, and passed on his discoveries to the most important chemist for the time Robert Boyle, but never got the full support and recognition he had hoped for (perhaps because Starkey  claim to have received many of his ideas from God Himself, at least according to his personal notes that were reviewed and republished 10 years ago; this could have made Boyle feel a little uncertain about Starkey’s once he read these lines in Starkey’s diaries/lab books; nevertheless Boyle took this idea and produced a similar iron based version of ‘ens veneris‘ with it, the most popular outcome of this piece of history for which Starkey gets no credit for . . . c’est la vie/vitre).  So, like other New Paracelsian ways of thinking, his philosophy remained more a part of the local oral and handwritten history of the region, stored in manuscript form in various archives, not as part of any written and officially published history.


John Baptiste Van Helmont (1579-1644, source: wikipedia)

The Ens or Entia, power of being, was an important idea critical to how medicine was practiced during the 17th century.  It became very important to Homann’s philosophical interpretations of the world as a cartographer due to his belief that plants grew in regions where they were needed–a traditional, very pastoral way of interpreting man’s relationship with the wilderness.


Friedrich Hoffman (1660-1742, source: wikipedia)

By the end of the 18th century, several scientists interested in these philosophical principles were also developing their own philosophies about health and disease.  One such writer was Friedrich Hoffman, a religious leader, chemist, mechanist, and new form of alchemist.   His associate and counterpart for the time was once again Van Helmont.  Together their preachings helped promote ideas about another form of the entia of plants–their essence or smell, or essential oil.  Considered the fifth element of plants by neo-Paracelsians, its values were considered alongside those for earth, air, fir and water when it came to healing.    As noted in my research on Dr. Cornelius Osborn, ca. 1745-1783 medical practitioner, both Hoffman and Van Helmont were popular to early American medical practitioners who wrote, taught and practiced their beliefs along the Hudson River Valley of New York during the mid to late 1700s.


Herbalists Nicolas Culpeper (1616-1654), John Gerarde (1545-1611), and John Parkinson (1567-1650)

Some of the most important plant medicine philosophers for the New World and European medicine in general included Christian Astrologer and herbalist Nicolas Culpeper, along with John Gerard and John Parkinson.   An herbal by Matthioli also existed in one of the local Dutch settlers’ libraries of the Hudson Valley.  It was through the work of Culpeper however that many of these latin writings became readable by those only trained in English.  Likewise for author and famed chemist Robert James, an apothecarian favored by Royalty whose translations of the famous Latin books by Sydenham made it possible for early American physicians to make sense of the native plants blooming all around them.

Still, it was Johannes Christophor Homann’s study of the philosophy and materialistic presentation of geosophy that served as one of the most important primers to assisting in the evolution of a Hudson Valley medical philosophy, one that was not only based on the more physiographically based traditions of disease theory and healing practices,but also upon the metaphysical components of nature, and the religious qualities of natures symbols, God’s Signs.  These teachings of the earlier natural philosophers were supported worldwide by the influences the Homann family had on the world as cartographers of place and people.   But it was J.C. Homann’s writings that had the most important influences of all-with this dissertation he enabled nature and the natural forms of God to become an important part of both European and early American medicine.

Johann C. Homann was not a mystic like Jakob Boehme.  His philosophy of health and disease was more focused on the physical world, but he recognized the role of God in creating these natural gifts.   Homann’s philosophy therefore was not at all agnostic or atheistic, or completely Newtonian  and mechanical in nature.  Instead, it had a metaphysical aspect that taught us how God through Nature played a role in defining both our health, our diseases, and our potential for discovering much-needed medicines.  To many colonial physicians, it worked well alongside the writings and teachings of religious leader and physician Friedrich Hoffmann.

Like many believers in God, nature was God’s most important gift to us.  Due to the Homann family history, J.C. Homann was very familiar with the physical make up of the world, and so once he took control of the family business in cartography in 1703, he became very interested in exploring the relationship between place and medicine.  He accomplished this successfully with his dissertation, for which he received a medical degree from the university in Halles along with some much-needed support from the church.  This writing also makes reference to a number of individuals who greatly influenced him, their metaphysical philosophies most important to understanding the underlying wisdom of the book and how the field of medical geography came to be as a by-product of J.C. Homann’s Geosophia.

During his schooling, one of Homann’s mentors and teachers, Rudolph Wilhelm Crausius, who wrote the following in an oration to his students, a few years before Homann received his degree in the study of medicine from the university in Halles:

Hippocrates Medicinae parens optimus in eo, qui fe Aesculapii саstris devovit, requirit naturam, locum studis aptum, industriam, tempus, doctrinam, institutionem a puero.

Physician Hippocrates, the father of the best [physicians], who devoted himself to the camp of Aesculapius, requires that nature be a place of study of industry (work), time, doctrines (ways or laws), and the manner of living for the new and the young.


Homann had limited influence for years to come in early American history.  His influences during the last Colonial years were evident, although never mentioned or referred to as such.  The beliefs were their, but their source soon forgotten.

We also don’t see any direct or indirect clues to The Homann family’s influences on United States in general, minus its medical history, until 1815, when a mid-18th century Homann’s map of Mexico played an important role in defining our rights to own and possess the former New France territory of Louisiana.

From William Darby’s 1817 book A Geographical Description of the State of Louisiana

In the years and decades leading up to this moment in American history, Homann’s work was generally used to describe the various continents and countries of the world, producing several Atlases along the way.  The influences of Johanne Christopher’s dissertation on the study of medicine, geography, health and disease would not be seen or felt for another 75 years.  J.C. Homann’s geosophy teachings remained a topic of religious and spiritualism studies, rather than a study of science and nature.  [Note: a brief mention of the “Geosoph” appears on p. 237 of an 1780s writing published in 1790 as part of Neuer Atlas . . . .  1790 and is mentioned in Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek, Volume 106, edited by Friedrich Nicolai, page 105.  No links as of yet are made for this use of the term, but probably existed as “fuel for the fire” in the United States medical geography writings just a few years later.]

Geosophie ~ Theosophie

The following entries in two ca. 1900 German lexicons provide us with insight into the cultural limitations that kept J.C. Homann’s term from becoming commonplace.

Geosophie od[er] Theosophie ᵻ: Molenaar, H., Flugschriften 6.

From Vollständiges Bücher-Lexicon by Christian Gottlob Kayser, Alexander Bliedener, Ernest Amandus Zuchold, Gustav Wilhelm Wuttig, Richardt Haupt, Albert Dressel, Oskar Wetzel, Heinrich Dullo, Heinrich Conrad, August Hilbert, Richard Schmidt, Alfred Dultz.  1908.  p. 141.

Geosophie s. Theosophie. 

From Karl Georgs Schlagwort-katalog: Verzeichnis der im deutschen Buchhandel  erschienenen Bucher und Landkarten in sachlicher Anordung. V. Band 1903-1907.  1. Abteilung.  A-K.  p. 635.


Throughout the remaining 18th century, Homann’s influences were seen with the writings on the healthiness of different parts of the world.  The health of New York and the Hudson Valley as detailed by Cadwallader Colden, the metaphysical take on mechanisms responsible for how medications worked on ailing bodies, the notion that air flow patterns and directions, weather, climate and topography could help define the health of a given region, were all based upon beliefs held by J.C. Homann as well as well as the traditional writings they referred to by Riverius.

Between 1730 and 1750, the writings of Riverius, Hoffman and Homann played very prominent roles in how medicine was being practiced and how the causes for disease were redefined.  With the onset of the Revolutionary War, the exchange of similar knowledge occurred internationally as foreign physicians came to support the side of the Patriots.  This solidified the many teachings that related disease to the endemic and epidemic forms of disease taught by Riverius, and the roles of nature and natural philosophy in disease taught by Hoffman.  By 1796, this allowed the practice and study of medical geography to be developed by New York state physicians, a description of which appears in the very first medical journal published in New York City–Medical Repository.

Along with the works of Hoffman, Riverius and Hippocrates, Homann’s work turned medicine into an extension of the natural sciences (or natural history as they called it then).   With his Dissertation, Medicinae Cum Geosophia Nexu, Homann provides us with the term and  definition for the Geosophen, or Geosophers, and Medicinae Geographica, or Geographic Medicine.  The subsequent spread of this philosophy took several distinct routes during the late 19th century.  As a result, Homann helped to develop or greatly influence several major fields of study, namely:

  • phytomedical geography, and research focused on the importance of local herbal medicines for treating local diseases,
  • anthropology, and its subspecialty medical anthropology–a study of disease and culture
  • medical geography, medical climatology, disease ecology, and the value of disease mapping, and
  • modern geosophy, or the study of sacred places.

Today we can state these influences to be mostly related to the knowledge of the following, promoted as a part of Homann’s dissertation writings:

  • the absence or presence of medicinal plants befitting a region
  • the absence or presence of specific cultural and anthropological ways of being and behaving
  • the absence or presence of specific diseases characteristic of the region and therefore defined as being epidemic or endemic to it
  • the existence and cultural definition of special places, human values placed upon these objects which are defined by their location, form and the occurrence of specific, related human and/or natural events

In a more modern sense, Homann’s term Geosophy was rediscovered or perhaps even reinvented from scratch during the 194os (see wikipedia entry on this term.)  His dissertation on geographical medicine however did have an impact on common knowledge, and therefore over the years has led to the development of three of the most important specialities today in medical geography–geoepidemiology, disease ecology, and spatial epidemiology.  Each of these fields of study benefitted from the knowledge base that Homann’s maps produced for geographers and physicians and the geosophical essay Johannes Christopher produced as a result of his own enlightenment process during the 18th century.



Additions to this site over the last months include two new maps on medical or disease geography

My review of the history of disease mapping and epidemiology is focusing much more on the yellow fever.  This is because yellow fever set the stage for the large-scale production of disease maps seen by the mid-18o0s for global epidemic disease patterns like Asiatic cholera.  Aside from Valentine Seaman’s map of this disease–the first of its kind and already reviewed at this site–are two new examples of how the early yellow fever epidemics were first interpreted by medical geographers (but with no maps produced).  These include:

  • 1799 – Samuel Anderson and the Mystery of Yellow Fever in Curaçao and On Board.
  • 1806 – The Next War – Yellow Fever in Upstate New York and Matthew Brown.  This page in particular addresses the geographic definition of disease issue developing in the United States.  This philosophy of assigned place names for particular diseases was less than 10 years old, and was disputed abroad and even by other physicians located in other parts of the U.S.  The politics underlying to identity of a disease was that place-name also indicated place of cause–either locally or by means of import by way of land and water travel.  Each had its repercussions economically, and in the case of New York, certain families had their reputations at stake due to these arguments.  [See also the long four part tale about John W. Watkins and the tale of “Lake Fever“, not Yellow Fever, a disease common to the region in Western New York he just purchased, with plans for settlement–Watkins Glen or “Salubria“.]

Between 1800 and 1850, the medicine of livestock or what later became veterinary science was developed.  Some of the earliest examples of this (with much more to follow) are provided as:

Synopses on the two sets of disease mapping projects I have been engaged in are provided as distinct pages.  These are for comparing maps that demonstrate similar spatial features or represent similar goals and techniques used for disease mapping,  They are:


Also, for those “addicted” to the use of GIS for mapping population health, more of my research on population health analysis has been posted as well.  These appear as icons posted on various pages summarizing my work or discussing the applications of GIS to modern epidemiological research.  Approximately 200 examples of population health analysis locally and regionally have been provided (approximately one fifth of the results of this project), but are not being promoted at this time.   You can see examples of these at

Ï   Α   Τ   Ρ   Ω

Based on 20 years of experience living in the Pacific Northwest as a student, university lecturer, and population health analyst, I am also pulling these “video maps” together to present a single public health topic or theme, for example a Regional Population Health Analysis of the Pacific Northwest.  This project (a work in process related to my National Population Health Grid project) can be reviewed at

REGIONS & HEALTH – the Pacific Northwest as an Example

This represents cutting edge use of GIS and some of my analytic techniques.