The 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded in part to a Chinese woman (Tu) for her identification and isolation to treat malaria of a chemical known as Artemisinin. The name of that chemical derives from the fact that it is found in varying amounts in the ‘family’ (technically, genus) of plants known as Artemisia. The name of that family derives from its association with the goddess Artemis.
Because Tu’s work began in China in the 1960s it is understandable that even if she knew this about Artemisia (a term I use to refer to any one plant or all of the plants of that family) it would not have been a ‘careerbuilder’ for her to point it out to those for whom she was working. It was bad enough that she was a woman. At that place and time, however, if she had said or done something that could be associated with Western culture her name might not even be known today.
Nevertheless, because those awarding the Nobel Prize are free from discrimination or intimidation, it is startling that in the explanation provided for the award no mention is made of the Western legacy of Artemisia. To begin with, the very fact that the Prize was being awarded to a woman for a plant named after a goddess should have elicited at a sense of uncanniness that arguably deserved mention. Be that as it may, the failure to mention that Artemisia has a long history of being used medicinally in the West not only as an insect repellent but also to treat fever–a common symptom of malaria–is simply inexcusable. Continue reading “Artemis As Artemisia: Ancient Female Spirituality & Modern Medicine by Stuart Dean”