The examination of the urine had always been an important diagnostic tool. As far back as the thirteenth century there was a textbook on the subject called De Urinas. By the sixteenth century this had developed into a full blown discipline known as uroscopy. Specialists known as “pisse-prophets” would indulge in “urine gazing”, making detailed diagnoses from the colour, smell and even taste of their patient`s urine by hanging a chamber pot outside their premises.
The great advantage these urologists had was that they could offer a discreet service, making remote diagnoses from a sample bought by a friend or servant. When a woman had brought a sample of her husband`s urine to one practioner, the urine-gazer quickly spotted some blood in it.
“The party hath received some internal hurt” he said. The wife agreed. The pisse-prophet soon ascertained that the husband fell downstairs.
“How many stairs did he fall down?” she asked mischievously.
When the urologist had found out where the woman lived, he hazarded a guess.
“Two pairs of stairs” he said
“Nay, you are out in your art” she said. “He fell down three”.
The expert then asked the woman whether the urine he had “cast” was all that her husband had passed that morning. The woman said no, she had spilt some.
“That, woman” said the pisse-prophet “was the business that made me mistake”.