Reports of people having “near-death” experiences go back to antiquity, but the oldest medical description of the phenomenon may come from a French physician around 1740, a researcher has found.
The report was written by Pierre-Jean du Monchaux, a military physician from northern France, who described a case of near-death experience in his book “Anecdotes de Médecine.”
Monchaux speculated that too much blood flow to the brain could explain the mystical feelings people report after coming back to consciousness.
The description was recently found by Dr. Phillippe Charlier, a medical doctor and archeologist, who is well known in France for his forensic work on the remains of historical figures.
Charlier unexpectedly discovered the medical description in a book he had bought for 1 euro (a little more than $1) in an antique shop.
“I was just interested in the history of medicine, and medical practices in the past, especially during this period, the 18th century,” Charlier told Live Science.
“The book itself was not an important one in the history of medicine, but from a historian’s point of view, the possibility of doing retrospective diagnosis on such books, it’s something quite interesting.”
To his surprise, Charlier found a modern description of near-death experience from a time in which most people relied on religion to explain near-death experiences.
The book describes the case of a patient, a famous apothecary (pharmacist) in Paris, who temporarily fell unconscious and then reported that he saw a light so pure and bright that he thought he must have been in heaven.
Today, near-death experience is described as a profound psychological event with transcendental and mystical elements that occurs after a life-threatening crisis, Charlier said.
People who experience the phenomenon report vivid and emotional sensations including positive emotions, feeling as though they have left their bodies, a sensation of moving through a tunnel, and the experiences of communicating with light and meeting with deceased people.
Photo: Printing press driven by the heat rays of the sun.
On 6 August 1882, Monsieur Abel Pifre, a French Engineer, demonstrated the solar engine invented by him at a meeting of the Union Francaise de la Jeunesse held at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.
It consisted of a concave mirror 3.5 metres in diameter, in the focus of which there is placed a cylindrical steam boiler equipped with a safety valve.
The steam generated by the reflected sun-rays actuates a small vertical engine of 2/5 horse power driving a Marioni type printing-press.
Although the sun lacked power and the sky was frequently overcast, the press operated continuously from 1.00 pm to 5.30 pm turning out an average of five hundred copies per hour of a journal which was especially made up for the occasion and appropriately called Soleil-Journal.
Previously Pifre had demonstrated that 50 litres of water could be brought to boil in less than 50 minutes, after which the pressure of the steam increased one atmosphere every eight minutes.
There is little doubt that such a solar engine will be a boon to the population of hot areas which so often suffer from a shortage of fuel.