Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: April 2020

  • The wife of Antoine Lavoisier

    Born in 1758 and described as beautiful and intellectually curious, Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze became the wife of the famous chemist and scientist Antoine Lavoisier, acting as his laboratory assistant and contributing to his work. After her husband’s execution during the French Revolution, she assembled and published his papers and remarried in 1804. She lived until…

  • William Morton first demonstrates the use of ether anesthesia

    In 1846 the dentist William T Morton first publicly demonstrated the use of inhaled ether as a surgical anesthetic at the Massachusetts General Hospital. At the end of the procedure, the surgeon famously said: “Gentlemen, this is no humbug.” Very soon anesthesia became universally used in surgery. The first use of ether in dental surgery,…

  • To see or not to see

    J. Trig Brown Durham, North Carolina, United States Walter Cronkite. U.S. Marine Corps photo in Clark Dougan and Stephen Weiss, Nineteen Sixty-Eight. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1983. Wikimedia.   In my youth I watched the body count mount. In black and white the nightly news “and that’s the way it is” Saint Walter mouthed, to…

  • How a small town kept smallpox small

    Annabelle Slingerland Leiden, the Netherlands   Fig. 1 Presentation of smallpox. To make a mountain out of a molehill is a vice, but to keep the mole underground is a virtue. The little town of Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands was not accustomed to seeing mountains, but when a molehill first came into…

  • Unlikely pioneers in renal transplantation: The Little Company of Mary Sisters

    Jayant Radhakrishnan Darien, Illinois, United States   The first kidney transplant was performed by Dr. Richard Lawler, Dr. James West, and Dr. Raymond Murphy at Little Company of Mary Hospital, Evergreen Park, IL. Photo courtesy of OSF Little Company of Mary Medical center.  Dr. Joseph Murray deservedly received the Nobel Prize in 1990 for his magnificent pioneering…

  • Sidelined

    Katherine WhiteRockville, Maryland, United States From the safety of my home, I watch the unfolding of the slow-motion car wreck that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Retired from the practice of neonatal medicine for over eight years, my medical license has been inactive for half that time. In my state of Maryland, the web page for…

  • The hunt for a yellow fever therapy

    Edward McSweegen Kingston, Rhode Island, United States   Roux’s syringe for delivering antitoxin, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.  Source In March 2020, a research group in China reported the use of convalescent plasma to treat ten patients suffering from coronavirus COVID-19 infections.1 This type of therapy—passive immunization—dates back to 1891 when the German bacteriologist Emil…

  • Modern neuroscience and the ideas of the Enlightenment

    Stephen Martin Durham, United Kingdom   Fig. 1. Mrs. Jane Wilkinson, one of the first independent Georgian music teachers. English, Philip Gaugain, 1835. UK private collection. The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement in eighteenth-century Europe that had a major influence on the arts, science, education, religion, and politics. Its principles paved the way for women…

  • Professionalism in crisis: Dr. Winkel and The Third Man

    Paul Dakin London, United Kingdom   Film Forum: The Third Man Times of crisis may highlight the best and worst characteristics of people. Many of us yearn to be heroes and yet what is revealed under pressure may fall short of our ideal. Doctors share this human frailty. Is medical training and professionalism enough to…

  • A plastic surgeon’s weeks in lockdown

    Neha ChauhanBangalore, Karnataka, India As I tuned in to the announcement on March 24th, 2020 that India would be completely locked down for next three weeks to flatten the curve of coronavirus spread, my heart skipped a beat and then almost sank. I spent a sleepless night trying to understand my reaction of experiencing a…