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Quacks and their history - Printable Version

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Quacks and their history - badlands - April 29th, 2014

What is quackery, and is there an history behind it? I heard that Louis Pasteur was considered one, William Beaumont, Joseph Lister and Ignaz Semmelweis were all call quacks.


Quacks and their history - Michael - April 29th, 2014

Quackery (as originally identified) originated in Europe in the late 1500s and 1600s, where people sold "medicinal salves". Of course, you could say the idea of selling medicinal salves is quite ancient but somewhere people departed from the dispensing of folk remedies and took up the practice of just selling junk, preying on desperate people's hopes and misfortunes. The word "quack" reflects what must have been a significant increase in such ill practices.

The word quack is derived from an obsolete Dutch expression, quacksalver ("hawker of salve"), and is dated to the late 1500s and mid-1600s (the 1600s corresponding to the "Dutch Golden Age"). I would guess that quackery mimicked real folk medicine as soon as there was enough money in the economy to support con artists and true believers who didn't know what they were doing.