In the asylums, the garrison hospitals, the rogues’ hovels, and so on back through time, it is possible to see medicine moving toward this moment, when the malingerer ceases to be a monster and becomes a mirror to ourselves.
Douglas Starr, in Blood, quotes the British Secretary of War, asked in 1937 what the nation proposed to do about a mass blood supply. The secretary was dismissive. Blood could not be stored for long or in great quantities, he said. On the hoof was better. “It was more satisfactory to store our blood in our people.” Janet Vaughan did not agree, and Janet Vaughan did something about it. Her medical director gave her £100, and she sent off her assistants in taxis to find all the tubing that London shops could provide.Longreads profiles Janet Vaughan, a British scientist who found better treatments for anemia than arsenic using herself as a test subject, was a major force in creating London's first blood banks using cheap tubing and ice cream trucks, studied emergency nutrition in a post-liberation concentration Nazi death camp, and continued active research into blood and radiation into her eighties, while occasionally serving as a model for Virginia Woolf characters.
Cold cream is mostly known from the beauty routines of old ladies or as a makeup remover for stage actors. However, its lengthy history goes back a ways further, to a medical treatment from the Renaissance, perhaps even to the ancient Greeks.
"Look around Endell Street in Holborn today and you could be forgiven for thinking it just an average London street. But one hundred years ago this year, this non-descript spot just off of Shaftesbury avenue was home to an important, and now near-forgotten, part of British history – the Endell Street Military Hospital, the first British Army hospital staffed, and managed, entirely by women.”In WW1 Dr Flora Murray and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson (daughter of the first Englishwoman to qualify as a physician) were determined to show that there was a place in military medicine for women. This is the story of the Women’s Hospital Corps and the now-forgotten pioneering London hospital they founded.
2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1: a pivotal time for Europe and a key transition point for medical science. The Lancet marks this centenary with a three part series ‘Legacy of the war 1914-1918’. The three papers examine the impact of World War 1 on infectious disease, military psychiatry, and amputation related pain.
Black laboratory technician Vivien Thomas was paid a janitor's wage, never went to college or medical school, and was one of the pioneers of open heart surgery.
A timeline of diseases and vaccines [warning: graphic photo of cutaneous diphtheria at year 1975]. Categories are: diphtheria, measles, polio, smallpox, yellow fever, and 'others'. You can select one keyword to view only that subject's timeline. From the History of Vaccines website (about page | FAQ). Similar timelines at the same site for pioneers, science and society, and there's an En Español timeline, too. [more inside]
Changing the Face of Medicine is an online exhibition from the National Library of Medicine, first published in 2003 but continuously updated, that honors the lives and achievements of American women in medicine. It is divided into sections (see the "more inside"), but you can also browse the biographies of the physicians alphabetically or by other criteria. [more inside]
The year is 1793. In this story, you will take the role of a fictional physician, Dr. John Brooks, as he navigates a disaster of a kind not altogether uncommon in U.S. cities before the 20th century... How Dr. Brooks fares will depend entirely on your decisions. Every choice has a consequence. Choose wisely. [more inside]
One of the most intriguing personalities in Southern medical history of the nineteenth century is Dr. Henry Clay Lewis (1825-1850), whose fame rests not on his accomplishments in medicine, but upon his humorous writings published under the pseudonym "Madison Tensas, M.D., the Louisiana Swamp Doctor." Though Lewis was a practicing doctor, his true identity as the author of the "Southern grotesque" (previously) pieces was not known until after his death. His works pre-dated the Southern Gothic style (prev), and are unusual for their time in that "[Lewis] presents his black characters with as much pain and grotesqueness as his white characters, steering away from the time's usual stereotypes." You can read a longer biography and a summary of his style here, or just dive in and read his works, which available online in Odd leaves from the life of a Louisiana "swamp doctor", which was also published as The swamp doctor's adventures in the South-west (also available with fourteen illustrations) on Archive.org.
On Sept. 13, 1848, at around 4:30 p.m., the time of day when the mind might start wandering, a railroad foreman named Phineas Gage filled a drill hole with gunpowder and turned his head to check on his men. It was the last normal moment of his life. Other victims in the annals of medicine are almost always referred to by initials or pseudonyms. Not Gage: His is the most famous name in neuroscience. How ironic, then, that we know so little else about the man—and that much of what we think we know, especially about his life unraveling after his accident, is probably bunk.—Phineas Gage, Neuroscience’s Most Famous Patient by Sam Kean.
This Video Will Hurt
A detailed explanation of a fascinating field of science and medicine by the always interesting C.G.P. Grey.[more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
In the late 1740s, John Wesley—a British evangelist and the co-founder of Methodism—published Primitive Physick, or, An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases. The tome gave regular people ways to cure themselves, using items they could find in their own homes. - Here are some of his suggested home remedies.
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
PTSD and Gene Kelly's lost wartime star turn: For the last six decades or so, a copy [of "Combat Fatigue Irritability"] has been filed away, along with thousands of other films, at the National Library of Medicine. The only people it has been lost to are the public and Gene Kelly’s devoted and still numerous fans. But now the National Library of Medicine is featuring Combat Fatigue Irritability in Medical Movies on the Web, and the film will be given a well-deserved, though very belated, New York premiere, on October 5, 2013, at the New York Academy of Medicine. [more inside]
Juliette of the Herbs is a beautifully filmed lyrical portrait of the life and work of Juliette de Bairacli Levy: world renowned herbalist, author, breeder of Afghan hounds, friend of the Gypsies, traveller in search of herbal wisdom and the pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine. A list of Juliette de Baïracli Levy's books. Cythera Island
CSI: Italian Renaissance. "Inside a lab in Pisa, forensics pathologist Gino Fornaciari and his team investigate 500-year-old cold cases." [Via]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
"I would point out to you that medical explanations are modern. That Americans today want medical explanations for things that in the 19th century would have been explained by hysteria, and in the 18th century would have been explained by religious conversion experiences in the context of the Great Awakening, when people were having these types of fits, and in the 17th century by witchcraft."
Locke, Johnson, Kierkegaard, Freud, and dozens of other historical figures on the subject of obsessive-compulsive disorder. [more inside]
"...we still can’t tell whether we are all about to die or whether we are being sold a bill of goods."
'The stories about epidemics that are told in the American press—their plots and tropes—date to the 1920's, when modern research science, science journalism, and science fiction were born.' This is the story of how the media back then (January, 1930) helped fuel fears about a parrot-fever pandemic, and the subsequent public backlash. (Via) [more inside]
Biomedical Ephemera, or, a Frog for your Boils is "A blog for all biological and medical ephemera, from the age of Abraham through the era of medical quackery and cure-all nostrums. Sometimes featuring illustrations of diseases and conditions of the times, sometimes fascinating ephemeral medical equipment, and sometimes clippings and information about the theories themselves." The archive page is also a useful starting point. via Things Magazine.
Medicine in the Americas is a digital library project that makes freely available original works demonstrating the evolution of American medicine from colonial frontier outposts of the 17th century to research hospitals of the 20th century. [more inside]
The Burns Archive is a collection of over 700,000 historical photographs that document disturbing subject matter: obsolete medical practices and experiments, death, disease, disasters, crime, revolutions, riots and war. Newsweek posted a select gallery this past October, as well as a video interview and walk-through with curator and collector Dr. Stanley B. Burns, a New York opthalmologist. (Via) (Content at links may be disturbing to some.) [more inside]
The Royal Society's lost women scientists. Women published in the Royal Society, 1890-1930. Most influential British women in the history of science. Women at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Heroines of Science. Women Biochemists, 1906-1939. Women in Science. Previously: The Women of ENIAC.
Byzantine Blog is what it says on the tin, a blog about Byzantium. It is written by Tom and Kim Sawford, with the occasional guest post by Laura Diaz-Arnesto. The blog has been going for over a year and a half now, and so has an extensive backlog of posts on a wide variety of subjects, for example: Byzantine holy relics in Siena in Tuscany, Princess Theophano who married Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, photos of mosaics and other art, the horrific realities of prostitution, the islands of Thasos and Lemnos and a couple of posts on Byzantine medicine, mandrake and wolfsbane. Besides essays and photos the blog also links to various sites, articles, podcasts et cetera that dwell on Byzantine matters.
"It is only fitting that the story of the brain should be a visual one, for the visuals had the ancients fooled for millenniums. The brain was so ugly that they assumed the mind must lie elsewhere. Now those same skeletal silhouettes glow plump and brightly colored, courtesy of a variety of inserted genes encoding fluorescent molecules. A glossy new art book, “Portraits of the Mind,” hopes to draw the general reader into neuroscience with the sheer beauty of its images." Slide Shows: The Beautiful Mind and Portraits of the Mind [more inside]
Before the development of rubber technology and tubing made medical gavage feasible for the average patient doctors used to feed people through the ass. [more inside]
"During World War I, the [US] Army lost 7 million person-days and discharged more than 10,000 men because they were ailing from STDs. Once Penicillin kicked in in the mid-1940s, such infections were treatable. But as a matter of national security, the military started distributing condoms and aggressively marketing prophylactics to the troops in the early 20th century." [more inside]
Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) provides access to nearly 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM). Their collection includes thousands of really fascinating images from warnings about winter driving to instructions about how to keep your privy clean. [more inside]
Canadian War Poster Collection at McGill University. And if that doesn't strike your fancy, the list of digital collections include such time-honoured favourites as Expo '67, and the award-winner for unexpected collection, Gynaecology in Traditional Chinese Medicine. (previously)
The day pain died. "The date of the first operation under anesthetic, Oct. 16, 1846, ranks among the most iconic in the history of medicine. It was the moment when Boston, and indeed the United States, first emerged as a world-class center of medical innovation. The room at the heart of Massachusetts General Hospital where the operation took place has been known ever since as the Ether Dome, and the word 'anesthesia' itself was coined by the Boston physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes to denote the strange new state of suspended consciousness that the city's physicians had witnessed. The news from Boston swept around the world, and it was recognized within weeks as a moment that had changed medicine forever." [Via]
No matter their approach, the typical French physician who accepted the notion of male hysteria continued to think that its victims were in some way sexually abnormal: "Thus, despite Charcot's innovative work, the male victim of hysteria in late-nineteenth century French medical imagination was still frequently envisioned as an effeminate heterosexual, an overt homosexual, or a physical or emotional hermaphrodite." If not different sexually, male hysterics were said to be different in other ways, such as race or nationality, among whom African, African-American, south Asian, Arab, or Eastern European Jewish men predominated. Outside of France, other methods of denial appeared, such as the suggestion that male hysteria was restricted to Frenchmen. The medical literature of the time is full of evasions and denials and contradictions of the truths that Charcot had quite obviously demonstrated.- Macho Misery, an extensive and interesting review of Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness. [more inside]
When Jamaican-born Mary Seacole, an experienced nurse, volunteered her services to the British Army during the Crimean War, she was rejected. Undaunted, she travelled to Crimea at her own expense and built a "mess-table and comfortable quarters," which she called the "British Hotel," and began taking care of soldiers. Her work was snubbed by Florence Nightingale, who called Seacole "a woman of bad character" and insinuated that the convalescent hotel was little more than a bordello, but Mary was beloved by the men in her care who called her "Mother Seacole." Her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands [link goes to full text and illustrations], was published a year after the war ended. Mary, who was feted by high-ranking military men and high-born civilians, went on to other nursing-related pursuits, including a stint as personal masseuse to Alexandra, Princess of Wales. Her work in Crimea was but one highlight in a very interesting life. [more inside]
Thirty-six years after the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse recommended that "simple possession" of pot be decriminalised, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), to remove federal criminal penalties for possession of up to 100 grams (about three-and-a-half ounces) of marijuana and the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce (28.3 grams). Drug reform advocates
lit up hailed the legislation as "an important step toward bringing federal law into line with scientific fact, practical reality and public opinion." Is America, at long last, having a collective moment of sanity?
The Visual Image of Chemistry: Perspectives from the History of Art and Science. [Via homunculus (no relation)]
Japanese Medical Prints. Part of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, at the Kansas University Medical Center, and donated by Dr. Matthew Pickard. The digital collections at the Clendening Library also include Florence Nightingale's letters, old school Chinese public health posters, and images from old medical and natural history texts.
Silphium was the wonder plant of the ancient world. Originally identified by Greek colonists in North Africa, the plant - a species of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - grew only in a dimunitive area near the coast and could not be cultivated. Silphium was popular as a spice for cooking, but its notoriety stems from its alleged medicinal qualities, particularly its use as an herbal contraceptive (the "I love you" heart symbol may have originated from the shape of silphium's seed pods and its use in sex). So valuable was Silphium that it became an important component of the ancient world's economy and appears on coins. It's also among the first species recorded (by Pliny the Elder) as going extinct, probably by grazing sheep or uncontrolled harvesting. Or is it?
Index of Medieval Medical Images Searchable collection of medieval illustrations (to the year 1500); the thumbnails can be viewed at varying magnifications. There are many more interesting online repositories devoted to the history of medical illustration--both medieval and early modern--including Historical Anatomies on the Web, Anatomia, Seeing is Believing, and Medieval Manuscripts in the National Library of Medicine.
The Archaic Medical Terms Dictionary. This was intended as a tool for genealogists and historians, but it is fun to browse. If you're suffering from Rag-Picker's Disease you are in trouble and Haematemesis looks pretty serious too. If you know what "Black Tongue" or "Painter's colic" are, you can contribute to the author's unsolved page.
what you need right now isn't the righteous anger the rest of the blogosphere will give you. You need more.
For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual --building on the history and expertise of Jane, , an underground referral and abortion-providing group in Chicago in the 60s, Molly provides the vital info women in South Dakota (and maybe elsewhere soon) need.
Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (1896) (some images NSFW).
I send you some of the urine I pass in the morning: A large, interesting, well-presented archive of notes and letters (includes facsimiles) written by ordinary Virginians in the early 19th century to a country doctor, William Carmichael of Fredericksburg. Also includes medical instruments and pharmaceuticals of the time, and browse a facsimile of the doctor's daybook. Carmichael also tended to the health of slaves.
NPR: 'My Lobotomy'
In 1960, Howar Dully was a badly behaved 12-year-old. He was lobotomized with an icepick (as were hundreds of others) and talks about it on this radio show. See also.
In 1960, Howar Dully was a badly behaved 12-year-old. He was lobotomized with an icepick (as were hundreds of others) and talks about it on this radio show. See also.
RIP Hamilton Naki, the black surgeon working unrecognised behind the scenes at Christiaan Barnard's pioneering South African heart transplant.
Human cardiac catheterization was introduced by Werner Forssman in 1929. Ignoring his department chief, and tying his assistant to an operating table to prevent her interference, he placed a ureteral catheter into a vein in his arm, advanced it to the right atrium [of his heart], and walked upstairs to the x-ray department where he took the confirmatory x-ray film. In 1956, Dr. Forssman was awarded The Nobel Prize. [via the "fortune" command]
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