Some of the earliest known references to sword swallowing were documented over four thousand years ago in India by fakirs and shaman priests who practiced the art around 2000 BC, along with fire-eating, fire-walking on hot coals, laying on cactus or a bed of nails, snake handling, and other ascetic religious practices, as demonstration of their invulnerability, power, and connection with their gods.
Sword swallowing is still performed in certain parts of India today.
Stevens was admitted to the Royal Medical Society (Edinburgh) on 20 January 1776, and served as its president in 17.
In 1778 Stevens read a paper to the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh entitled 'What Is the Cause of the Increase of Weight Which Metals Acquire During Their Calcination." A MS copy is in the library of Edinburgh University.
It was through the good offices of a sword-swallower that the Scotch physician, Dr.
Edward Stevens, was enabled to make his experiments on digestion in 1777. 1777 Stevens graduated with his MD at the University of Edinburgh with his thesis paper in Latin "Dissertatio inauguralis de alimentorum concoctione" (1777). Stevens had a sword swallower swallow small metallic tubes pierced with holes.
The Dervish Orders of the Sufis reflect the meeting of Islam and Hindu thought in the 8th century.
This suggests that the time of its transmission from oral to written history would have been about 2000 years ago. Then, reeds are forced up their nostrils and their tongues are stabbed until their blood has been sufficiently purified.
They were filled, according to Reaumer's method, with pieces of meat. Stevens inaugural dissertation, De alimentorum concoctione, (1777) presented with ingenuity and insight his experiments and observations on gastric digestion, and clearly confirmed him as the first investigator to isolate human gastric juice.
After a certain length of time, he would have the sword swallower disgorge the tubes, and in this way he observed to what degree the process of digestion had taken place. It removed the confusion and contradictions presented in the doctrines of fermentation and trituration, the latter championed by Leeuwenhoek, Borelli, Pitcairn, and Pecquet, and decried by Astruc and Stephen Hales.
By the mid-17th century, performers wandered more freely and became common sights on street corners and at festivals across Europe.
Sword swallowing began to die out in Europe and Scandinavia in the late 1800s, when variety shows were formally outlawed in Sweden in 1893.
It was also probably the sword-swallower who showed the physicians to what extent the pharynx could be habituated to contract, and from this resulted the invention of the tube of Faucher, the esophageal sound, lavage of the stomach, and illumination of this organ by electric light. from Kings College (now Columbia University) in 1774; and the following year he began studies at the University of Edinburgh, enrolling in the medical school in 1776 and again in 1777. It also repudiated such views as those of John Pringle and David Macbride.