Imhotep, the Original Genius of Geniuses

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In writing the Lexi Catt series about famous scientists who made significant contributions to the field of medicine, I had to make some tough choices.

For example, I thought about writing the story of Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray. But the trouble with that story was that the story ended with the discovery. Roentgen gave away the concept, which was generous of him, but he did not develop it himself. His story was short-lived. But it led me to Marie Curie who used the x-ray as a means of saving countless lives in World War I. Her story was rich in character and detail.

A similar choice occurred with the story of Lexi and Imhotep. I harbour some regrets in not telling his personal story. I made the choice to invent Imhotep’s descendant, and set my story during Ramses II reign, because there was so much more information available about that era, and Ramses II did encourage community health. There was almost no information available about Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty, which was when the original Imhotep lived. My regret was placated by writing Imhotep’s real story in the Pawscript of Lexi and Imhotep to the Rescue! Luckily, Imhotep wrote “books” on papyrus paper, and so passed on his medical knowledge. He also wrote books on philosophy. Has those books survived, I might have written about him directly. Imhotep was a dedicated physician. He saved the Queen’s life during childbirth, and that of her baby, who was the future Pharaoh Djoser. Unfortunately, his own wife and baby died in childbirth at the same time. (I did not feel that this fact was appropriate to include in a story for children.)

King Djoser experienced seven years of drought before he asked his physician and vizier Imhotep for advice. This story was most interesting but had little to do with the science of medicine. Imhotep was a practical man, but he also knew the value of faith and hope as they supported positive attitudes. So he first advised the King to appeal to the gods with offerings and ceremonies. Then, while the king attended to creating positive outlooks, Imhotep, being practical, created better storage facilities for food supplies, and improved the irrigation system. It is said that he invented the Shaduf, an irrigation tool which is still used today in parts of rural Egypt and Africa.

When King Djoser wanted a more imposing tomb for himself, he once more asked Imhotep for one that would last longer than the mud brick of the day. Imhotep invented the first stone building—the step pyramid—and he invented the tools and the method to build it.

Though one reference referred vaguely to Imhotep’s children, there was nothing in my sources to indicate how or where he lived, or what he thought. It’s a pity those papyrus books he wrote on philosophy were lost. I’m sure he was a remarkable man.

Meg

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Lexi Catt’s Meowmoirs – Tales of Heroic Scientists

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Religious Freedom is Vital 

22-fear-of-sobekIt is difficult to find fault with a civilization that existed for 5000 years under a polytheistic system that fostered broadminded attitudes. The ancient Egyptians respected more than 80 gods, and also respected an individual’s right to worship which one or ones he or she chose. If a person invented a new god, that was okay too. This was a society that practiced religious freedom.

However, one man defied the system. He invented his own god. And then he made the mistake of declaring that his god was the only god, and that everyone must worship his god and no other god. Soon, bias, discrimination, and hatred developed. The man was Pharaoh Akhenaten, and his god was Aten. The unrest in his time continued until his son Tutankhamun became Pharaoh and he erased his father’s restrictive religion.

This history does give a person pause to think about what we conceive as religious freedom today. To think that one god and one way of thinking is the only correct way is to destroy acceptance and freedom.

Meg

Water – the source of life

There was no rain here for over 100 days. There are 249 fires burning in our province as we reach the end of our summer. I have personally never experienced a drought. It’s scary.drops-of-water-578897_1280

The area where I live is required to observe measures of water conservation – rules that are imposed on everyone. My household are doing their best to conserve and comply with the water restrictions. It gives me pause to think about how much society in western North America is dependent on water and how much we assume it will always be available in quantities that can support our wasteful habits.

During my research for my book Lexi and Imhotep to the Rescue I became so immersed in life in ancient Egypt that my mind was there, seeing everything and everyone and accepting it all. In fact, I was so immersed that I missed the obvious.

The ancient Egyptians lived in the middle of a desert. They had very little water. One documented drought in King Djoser’s reign lasted seven years! And we’re experiencing difficulties  (249 fires) in less than 100 days!!

 

  • In Egypt: during a drought there were no crops – people starved by the thousands in Djoser’s reign
  • In BC: crops are down in yield about 20%
  • In Egypt: there are no forests… therefore, no forest fires
  • BC: Huge losses to the lumber industry
  • Egypt: Water for personal use had to be carried from the Nile (in Dier-El-Madina they had to carry H2O 1.5 miles up hill
  • BC: water flows from a tap in the home
  • Egypt: little water for personal cleanliness or sanitation
  • BC water is abundantly used in long luxurious showers, brushing teeth with the tap pouring, and toilet use, plus dishwashers and washing machines, pools, and lawn and garden watering.
  • The ancient Egyptians used no water in toilets, only sand.

Personal cleanliness was extremely important to the Egyptians who “washed before every meal.” They had no soap so put together a ‘scrub’ made of powdered calcite, red natron, salt, and honey. Deodorants were made from ground carob-pod pulp or a mix of incense and porridge rolled into pellets which they rubbed on, much like a deodorant stick today. Egyptians were famed for their perfumes which were made from scented oils. They had ointments to keep skin soft and moist. Necessity mothered invention.

Water is the most important commodity on earth. Don’t waste it.