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Doctor Symbol VideoThe Caduceus - Symbol of the Day #6
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What is your favorite tv channel? He is, it seems, inclined to think that the adoption of the caduceus in this context probably had something to do with the relation between publishing and the role of Mercury as a messenger and scribe.
Other contemporary British publishers did not use a caduceus and the caduceus had never been as widely connected to medicine in Great Britain or in Europe as it has been in the United States.
In any case, in Great Britain, as late as , the distinction between the rod of Asclepius and the caduceus as symbols of two very different professions was apparently still quite clear.
Burkitt notes that among the very old symbols still used in London at that time, which were based on associations between pagan gods and professions, "we find Mercury, or his caduceus , appropriate in trade, as indicating expedition.
Esculapius , his Serpent and staff , or his cock , for professors of the healing art" . Widespread confusion regarding the supposed medical significance apparently arose as a result of events in the United States that occurred in the second half of the 19th century.
Emerson indicates the insignia was adopted earlier, in It has been asserted that this was a result of ignorance or misinterpretation regarding the pre-existing designation of the rod of Asclepius by the Surgeon General of the United States for this purpose.
Later, in , the Surgeon General designated the caduceus as the seal of the Marine Hospital Service destined to become the U.
Public Health Service in Gershen states that the change was for aesthetic reasons,  whereas Friedlander states the caduceus was adopted by the Marine Hospital Service "because of its relationship with merchant seamen and the maritime industry".
The caduceus was formally adopted by the Medical Department of the United States Army in and was added to the uniforms of Army medical officers.
According to Friedlander, this was brought about by one Captain Frederick P. Reynolds, although Bernice Engle states "the use of the caduceus in our army I believe to be due chiefly to the late Colonel Hoff, who has emphasized the suitability of the caduceus as an emblem of neutrality.
Forwood — to adopt it. This resulted in considerable controversy. The Army and Navy Register of 28 June discusses the argument, which reflects the fact that a number of medical officers were unhappy with the choice.
The article editor claims that the symbol was not chosen for its medical connotations and proposes the following symbolic interpretation: According to this line of reasoning, the caduceus was never intended to be a symbol of medicine.
The inconsistency was noticed several years later by the librarian to the Surgeon General , but for reasons which are not entirely clear, the symbol was not changed.
Considerable light is shed on this confusion by an anonymous letter republished by Emerson, a historian of United States Army insignia and uniforms.
He indicates that the April issue of The Military Surgeon printed a review of an earlier article that appeared in the Presse Medicale in which the author stated "There is nothing in history to justify the use of the caduceus as the emblem of the physician [ In the letter to the editor reproduced by Emerson, the anonymous author claims.
According to this view the caduceus was not intended to be a medical symbol and, though explained differently, this reflects the view advanced by the editor commenting in The Army and Navy Register of 28 June discussed above.
Even the American Medical Association used the symbol for a time, but in , after considerable discussion, the caduceus was abandoned by the AMA and the rod of Asclepius was adopted instead.
This shift back to use of the rod of Asclepius to symbolize medicine can also be seen in the United States military. The Army Medical Corps, having popularised the caduceus, whilst retaining the caduceus for its own plaque and insignia, is now part of the Army Medical Department , which has since adopted the Rod of Asclepius as its main symbol.
Furthermore, when the U. Air Force designed new medical insignia, it also adopted the rod of Asclepius. Despite widespread acceptance of the caduceus as a medical symbol in the United States , it has been observed that the rod of Asclepius has "the more ancient and authentic claim to be the emblem of medicine".
Friedlander felt it likely that this might reflect the fact that "professional medical organizations have more often sought a real understanding of the meaning of the two symbols whereas commercial organizations have been less interested in the historical basis of their logo or insignia and more concerned with how well a certain symbol will be recognized by the iconographically unsophisticated audience they are trying to attract to their wares.
The use of the caduceus in a medical context has long been frowned upon by many professionals, academics and others who are familiar with the historical significance of both symbols.
This has occasioned impassioned remarks by those frustrated with the continuing confusion. It has been observed that the caduceus is particularly inappropriate for use as a medical symbol due to its long associations with the Greek god Hermes , who was patron of commerce and traders as well as thieves, liars, and gamblers.
On the other hand, it has also been remarked — not without considerable irony — that commercial aims in medicine, especially in the United States of America, make the caduceus an appropriate symbol , at least for some physicians.
Like the herm or priapus , it would thus be a predecessor of the anthropomorphic Hermes of the classical era. William Hayes Ward discovered that symbols similar to the classical caduceus sometimes appeared on Mesopotamian cylinder seals.
He suggested the symbol originated some time between and BC, and that it might have been the source of the Greek caduceus. From this perspective, the caduceus was originally representative of Hermes himself, in his early form as the Underworld god Ningishzida , "messenger" of the "Earth Mother".
In Egyptian iconography, the Djed pillar is depicted as containing a snake in a frieze of the Dendera Temple complex.
The caduceus also appears as a symbol of the punch-marked coins of the Maurya Empire in India, in the third or second century BC. Numismatic research suggest that this symbol was the symbol of the Buddhist king Ashoka , his personal " Mudra ".
The Homeric hymn to Hermes relates how Hermes offered his lyre fashioned from a tortoise shell as compensation for the cattle he stole from his half brother Apollo.
Apollo in return gave Hermes the caduceus as a gesture of friendship. The association of Apollo with the serpent is a continuation of the older Indo-European dragon -slayer motif.
Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher pointed out that the serpent as an attribute of both Hermes and Asclepius is a variant of the "pre-historic semi-chthonic serpent hero known at Delphi as Python ", who in classical mythology is slain by Apollo.
One Greek myth of origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tiresias ,  who found two snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff.
Tiresias was immediately turned into a woman, and so remained until he was able to repeat the act with the male snake seven years later.
This staff later came into the possession of the god Hermes, along with its transformative powers. Another myth suggests that Hermes or Mercury saw two serpents entwined in mortal combat.
Separating them with his wand he brought about peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace.
In Rome, Livy refers to the caduceator who negotiated peace arrangements under the diplomatic protection of the caduceus he carried.
In some vase paintings ancient depictions of the Greek kerukeion are somewhat different from the commonly seen modern representation.
These representations feature the two snakes atop the staff or rod , crossed to create a circle with the heads of the snakes resembling horns.
In this form the staff is often depicted with two winglets attached and the snakes are omitted or reduced to a small ring in the middle.
The caduceus is also the symbol of the Customs Agency of Bulgaria. The emblem of the China Customs is a caduceus crossing with a golden key.
It is relatively common, especially in the United States, to find the caduceus, with its two snakes and wings, used as a symbol of medicine instead of the Rod of Asclepius , with only a single snake.
This usage was popularised largely as a result of the adoption of the caduceus as its insignia by the U. Army Medical Corps in at the insistence of a single officer though there are conflicting claims as to whether this was Capt.
The Rod of Asclepius is the dominant symbol for professional healthcare associations in the United States.