Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Red Gold - The Epic Story of Blood Blood Basics: Early Practices
Blood Journey Blood History Blood Basics Innovators & Pioneers Education Ask the Experts

Early Practices

Barber Surgeon

During the Middle Ages a new category of medical practitioner emerged. The Pope had banned the clergy from performing bloodletting (although they were welcome to receive it), and physicians were discouraged by the fact that feudal lords could have them executed in cases of malpractice. Video Clip.So bloodletting and other minor procedures moved into the hands of barber-surgeons. More craftsmen than medics, they established their own guilds and competed for respectability with apothecaries and physicians. They advertised with a symbol that endures to this day -- a red and white striped pole. The pole represents the stick patients would grab while being phlebotomized; the white stripes represent the bandages and the red stripes, the blood.

-- Douglas Starr

Print this page
E-mail this page
Choose another subject:
Read Articles on: Early Practices


Blood in Ancient Judaism and Christianity

A Brief History of Bloodletting


Bloodletting Instruments




Pledge About the Series Resources Glossary Sitemap 56k T1