Monthly Archives: June 2019

James Syme, the Napoleon of surgery (1799–1870)

James Syme, by John Adamson. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1855. James Syme was born in Edinburgh in the year when Napoleon became First Consul, and in later years came to be called the Napoleon or Wellington of surgery.1-6 As a young man he had an interest in chemistry and at age eighteen developed a method […]

A 130-year-old medical cold case: who was Jack the Ripper?

Kevin R. Loughlin Boston, Massachusetts, USA   As murder followed murder and mutilated bodies were discovered and described in the press, one can imagine the fear that swept the hardscrabble Whitechapel section of London in 1888. Populated with many immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia, unemployment was rampant and tenements were found on most […]

A house call

Martin Duke Mystic, Connecticut, United States   A doctor visiting a sick woman, and taking her pulse. Many years ago, in the mid 1980s, when I was still in clinical practice, I made a house call accompanied by a second year medical student who was coming to my office one day a week as part […]

Daniel Carrion and his disease

In 1879 an armed conflict known as the War of the Pacific broke out between three South American nations, pitting Chile against a Peruvian-Bolivian alliance in a dispute over land rich in minerals, especially sodium nitrate. The Chileans defeated their adversaries by land and sea, their armies invading Peru, occupying Lima, eventually annexing valuable territory […]

Dr. Rebecca Cole and racial health disparities in nineteenth-century Philadelphia

Meg Vigil-Fowler Grand Junction, Colorado   The anatomy lecture room at the Woman’s Medical College of New York Infirmary. Published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.  April 16, 1870. Library of Congress. From the beginning of black women’s professional involvement in medicine, public health marked a central component of the scope of their practice. Rebecca Cole, […]

“Surrounded with many Mercies”: 270 years of patient advice

Andrew Williams Frederick O’Dell Northampton, United Kingdom   On July 9, 1748 Dr. James Stonhouse, physician at the Northampton Infirmary (United Kingdom), published “A Friendly Letter to a Patient just admitted to an Infirmary.”1 Later that year, after some minor revisions, the text was reprinted as “Friendly Advice to a Patient,” which for the next […]

A Dickensian medical education

Gregory Rutecki Lyndhurst, Ohio, United States   Illustration for Nicholas Nickleby by Hablot Browne. 1839. My four grandparents were Polish immigrants who came to America in the early twentieth century. They had no formal education, neither in Poland nor in their new home in Chicago, but worked hard and saved money to pay for the […]

Robert Liston – the fastest knife in town

Robert Liston (1794–1847), FRCSEd (1818). Portrait by Samuel John Stump (1778–1863), 1847. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh via Wikimedia. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Samuel Johnson, a man of strongly held prejudices, had a low opinion of most foreigners, and this included the Scots. James Boswell, his biographer and a Scotsman himself, records how Johnson […]

The big sheepdog

Gregory Rose Lexington, Kentucky, United States   The Dog’s Watch. Charles Francois Daubigny. 1857. The Art Institute of Chicago. “How ya doin’, Wayne?” It had been some ten years, back in high school, since I had seen Wayne. I had returned to general practice in my small home town and I was not sure what […]

Notre Dame and gratitude

Elizabeth Cerceo Camden, New Jersey, United States   Notre Dame de Paris, brandend. April 15, 2019. Photograph by Milliped on Wikimedia. On April 15, 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned. This event highlighted the integral nature of art and beauty in our culture. We often take for granted the beauty that surrounds us and […]