Views & Reviews Review

Faith in medicine

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 11 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e83
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

Despite modern evidence based medicine, many people still take superstitious comfort in the protective or healing powers of objects such as amulets, charms, and votives. Wendy Moore enjoys this spellbinding exhibition

Edward Lovett was a quiet, unassuming man. By day he worked as a clerk in a London bank but at night he scoured the markets, dockyards, and corner shops of the city’s east end, hunting for amulets and charms. Among the treasures he brought back to his suburban home were strings of acorns believed to prevent diarrhoea, a bottle of mercury wrapped in chamois leather supposed to be a cure for rheumatism, and a mole’s claw meant to ward off arthritis.

Lovett drew a map of London in 1914 meticulously charting his finds, with red dots marking shops where blue glass beads were sold as a cure for bronchitis. He noted that, “every shop of the low class recognised the blue beads as a cure for bronchitis, but not a single shop of the better class knew anything about it, or if they did they did not admit it.”

Lovett amassed a collection of more …

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