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A Brief History of Showering

It was in the early 1800s, writes Sarah Zhang, that people began “experimenting with the new possibilities offered by modern plumbing.” But showering, it turns out, has its origins in hydrotherapy—a method of treating madness with water:

In the 17th century…the Flemish physician Jan Baptist van Helmont would plunge patients into ponds or the sea. His inspiration came from a story he’d heard of an escaping “lunatic”who ran right into a lake. The man nearly drowned, but when he recovered, so did his mind, apparently. Van Helmont concluded that water could stop “the too violent and exorbitant Operation of the fiery Life.” His [sic] began stripping his patients naked, binding their hands, and lowering them headfirst into the water…

And yet today, despite this “dark and violent history,” most people shower at least five times a week.



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