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Ophthalmologe. 2009 Jul;106(7):583-92. doi: 10.1007/s00347-009-1967-4.

[The benefits and disadvantages of crying. Tears from a medical historical viewpoint].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Medizinische Ethik und Geschichte der Medizin, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Markstrasse 258 A, 44799 Bochum.


Tears and crying as a genuine expression of human feelings have aroused the attention of artists and literati for many centuries, but the medical principles have only received little attention for a long time. In this article the developing explanation and the various interpretations of this phenomenon will be demonstrated in combination with their dependence on the respective knowledge of anatomy and physiology. The antique conception of the lacrimal apparatus and the significance of tears in the Middle and Baroque Ages with respect to the history of salvation will also be discussed as well as the search for the lacrimal organ and the mechanical interpretation of lacrimation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Moreover, the discussion on the benefits and disadvantages of tears will be followed and the new turn which led to the explanation of the phenomenon under the influence of the theory of evolution will be emphasized.

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