Tag Archives: Summer 2016

The Holy Infirmary of the Knights of St. John in Malta

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, United States    Left: Exterior of Sacra Infirmaries, Malta; R: Interior On a small island near Sicily, where today one hears the rich Maltese language—a mixed tongue of Italian, Arabic, English, and even French—a hospital was established in 1574 by the Knights of St. John.  These aristocratic, militaristic, and religious men […]

Fracastorius, the man who named syphilis

Titian (1528), National Gallery, London One of the great names in medical history, Girolamo Fracastoro appears in the National Gallery painting by Titian in full regalia. We owe him the name syphilis, derived from his poem (1530) Syphilis sive morbus gallicus (“Syphilis or The French Disease”) in which a shepherd boy named Syphilus was punished […]

Outwitting ‘Typhoid Mary’

Lisa Mullenneaux New York City, New York, United States   Illustration from The New York American, 1909 The Irish cook who infected at least forty-eight people with typhoid bacilli, three of whom died, had a surname and a history, but Americans remember her only for her germs. Mary Mallon’s physical stamina and quick wits had […]

Ronald Ross: polymath and discoverer

Satish Saroshe Indore, India Sir Ronald Ross [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons Sir Ronald Ross received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for discovering the malaria parasite in the stomach of a mosquito, thereby proving that malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes and laying the foundation for future methods of combating the disease. Born in Almora, India, in 1857 to a Scottish […]

On Longcope Rounds

 Kevin R. Fontaine Birmingham, Alabama, United States The Four Doctors, 1905 John Singer Sargent Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Dr. Hunter Champion keys the code in and enters the Longcope Office holding two plastic bags and a cardboard box with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.  Senior resident Parker Ruhl, interns Ben McEnroy and Susan Quan, and third […]

Birth of Adonis

 George Dunea In his version of an ancient Greek myth, Ovid tells what he calls the horrible story of Myrrha developing an incestuous passion for her father, the king of Cyprus. After becoming pregnant, she flees to escape punishment and appeals to the gods to take pity on her. She is transformed into a myrrh […]

Birth of Mary

 George Dunea The story of the birth of the Virgin comes not from the Scriptures but from the apocryphal Gospel of James, probably written about AD 145. It tells that Anna and Joachim were infertile but prayed for a child and were promised that such a child would advance God’s plan of salvation of the […]

Birth of Bacchus

 George Dunea Bacchus (Dionysus), god of wine, fertility, and ritual or religious ecstasies, was born under trying circumstances. His mother, Semele, already with child from Jupiter, was induced by a jealous Juno to insist he visit her as a god, not disguised as a mortal. Naissance de Baccus, Nicolas Poussin, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, […]

Gertrude Abercrombie: surrealist predilection and pancreatic affliction

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, United States   Letter from Karl, c. 1940, Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977) Collection of the Union League Club of Chicago Chronic pancreatitis, longstanding inflammation of the pancreas, is most commonly caused by an excessive intake of alcohol.[i] This was the case of Gertrude Abercrombie, who painted this cryptic, pseudo-surrealistic painting, Letter to Karl. […]

Giorgione and the plague

Il Tramonto, National Gallery, London   Giorgione’s painting Il Tramonto (The Sunset) is as mysterious as most of the other details of the artist’s life. Painted around 1506, it was lost and rediscovered in 1933 in a villa near Venice, in very poor condition, damaged, and with holes in it. Over time it underwent three […]