Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 24, 2022

© The British Museum

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The stuff of legends

BBC Radio and London’s British Museum probably had no idea that 15-minute, five-day-a-week radio segments on the history of the world told through 100 objects would be so popular… or, maybe they did. One hundred curators did spend four years selecting the objects from the museum’s collection. The January to October 2010 radio program with the museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, was so popular that there has been at least 24 million downloads of segments from the BBC’s website ( Motivation enough to publish a book, no? A History of the World in 100 Objects (Allen Lane; $42) was released in October 2011. Its 20 chapters begin in 2,000,000 to 9000BC with a wooden mummy case from 240BC made for a high-ranking Egyptian priest named Hornedjitef; the book ends almost 650 pages later with the 1914 to 2010 chapter and a Chinese-made solar-powered lamp and charger. In between there’s a business-card-sized ivory sandal label made to accompany King Den to the afterlife (about 2985BC), the Lewis Chessmen, carved walrus-ivory and whales’ teeth, likely made in Norway (1150-1200AD) but found in Scotland, and a Ming banknote from 1400AD, among the earliest paper money, which the Chinese called “flying cash.” To see all the 100 objects and to find out why they were included, you can get the book at Chapters-Indigo:

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