Monthly Archives: November 2018

El garrotillo: on diphtheria and Goya

Vicent Rodilla Valencia, Spain     Figure 1. El Garrotillo by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1808-1812). Private collection. Diphtheria is a bacterial infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae that affects mostly children. Although by 2017 some 85% of infants worldwide have been vaccinated for DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis), some 19.9 million children remain unvaccinated.1 According to […]

Francesco Antommarchi, the Malvolio of St. Helena

  Francesco Carlo Antommarchi (1780–1838) was a man of dubious character who served as Napoleon’s physician on the island of St. Helena from 1818 until his death in 1821. He began his education in Livorno, Italy, then in Pisa and Florence, graduating with a degree in surgery in 1812. For the next six years he […]

Johannes Purkinje: physiologist with wide interests

Johannes Purkinje (1787 –1869) was one of the best-known scientists of his time, now remembered for discovering, in 1837, the large neurons with branching dendrites of the cerebellum (Purkinje cells), and the fibers conducting electrical impulses from the atria to the ventricles of the heart (Purkinje fibers). In addition, he introduced into medicine the terms plasma and protoplasm, and was the first […]

Kinnier Wilson

Samuel Kinnier Wilson (1878-1937), one of the greatest neurologists of the first half of the twentieth century, described in 1912 under the title “progressive lenticular degeneration” what became known as “Wilson’s disease.” Born in New Jersey to a Scottish mother and an Irish missionary Presbyterian minister, he went to Scotland for his education, graduated from […]

Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”) 1516–1558

During her relatively short life, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had a rough time. After her mother’s marriage was annulled, she was not allowed to see her and was declared illegitimate. Her father would have nothing to do with her and once even threatened to execute her if she did not […]

Seventeenth century obstetric illustrations

Around the middle of seventeenth century man-midwifes or accoucheurs began to revolutionize the practice of obstetrics by reforming education, introducing scientific principles, and developing safe rules for the conduct of the delivery and the use of the forceps. Foremost among this new brand of practitioners were two Scotsmen, William Smellie and his one-time student William […]

Islamic medicine

During the expansion of the Empire of Islam and its ensuing Golden Age, physicians from Spain to Samarkand advanced the medical sciences by reviving existing Greek medicine and adding their own innovations.1 There were many prominent physicians, dating back to the days of the Prophet himself. Often associated with hospitals or schools of pharmacy, some […]

Nicolo Paganini – a case of mercury poisoning?

Nicolo Paganini, the greatest violin virtuoso ever, was born in the Republic of Genoa in 1782. At age five he learned to play the mandolin and at seven the violin. When his city was invaded by the French revolutionary army in 1796 his family fled the city but later returned, and by age eighteen Paganini […]

Combat hospital chaplain

Jack Riggs Morgantown, West Virginia, United States   Top photo – Several members of NMCB23 visit their former “Chaps” (in blue sweatshirt) and “Doc” (author standing next to chaplain) on their way home from Iraq. Bottom photo – Chaplain (left) and author at St. Patrick’s Day “party” on grounds of US Military Hospital Kuwait in […]

Thomas Bartholin’s consolation on the burning of his library

Timo Hannu Helsinki, Finland   ‘Thomas Bartholin. Line engraving by G. Appelmans, 1671, after H. Ditmer.’ by Heinrich Ditmer. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680) was a Danish physician known for his discoveries on aspects of the human lymphatic system. Like his father, Caspar Bartholin the Elder, he was a professor of medicine, and so […]