Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: November 2020

  • “Gentlemen! This is no humbug.”

    Summer A. NiaziJack E. RiggsMorgantown, West Virginia, United States The words “Gentlemen! This is no humbug” is one of the most famous statements in the history of medicine.1 They were supposedly uttered by the surgeon John Collins Warren on October 16, 1846, following the first public demonstration of an operation using ether inhalation anesthesia. Yet…

  • Plain Words, or pandemic medical gobbledygook

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1: Comic featuring Plain Words The great essayist and philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) once said: “Words, when written, crystallize history; their very structure gives permanence to the unchangeable past.” I suggest that the problems posed by writers who fail to convey meaning are not new.1,2 As long ago as…

  • The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the legacy of Long John Silver

    George Venters Scotland   The “Old Surgical Hospital” as it is today. Courtesy of Dr. Iain MacIntyre. Faced with the danger of having his right foot amputated in 1873, the real “Long John Silver,” the English poet William E. Henley, turned for help to Joseph Lister and became a patient in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.…

  • What does the zoonotic origin of COVID-19 teach us about preventing future pandemics?

    James A. Marcum  Waco, Texas, United States   Computer generated representation of COVID-19 virions (SARS-CoV-2) under electron microscope. Image by Felipe Esquivel Reed. Via Wikimedia  CC BY-SA 4.0  The history of medicine reveals that epidemics and pandemics have plagued humanity throughout the centuries.1 Examples include the Antonine plague (165-180 A.D.), the Justinian plague (541-542 A.D.),…

  • Book review: A Brief History of Ayurveda

    Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover of A Brief History of Ayurveda by M.R. Raghava Varier. Ayurveda translates from the Sanskrit as “the science of life and longevity.” It originated over 4,000 years ago as a system of healing in the Indian subcontinent, where it flourished until the nineteenth century. The Harappan civilization…

  • Absinthe: The green fairy

    Nicolás Roberto Robles Badajoz, Spain Figure 1. Green Muse. Albert Maignan. 1895. Via Wikimedia Commons “After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in…

  • Radiology and visual arts interpretation

    Kristin Krumenacker Huntington, New York, United States   The Doctor, 1891, Sir Luke Fildes.© The Tate Britain. CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported). Source Medical schools have increasingly included the humanities in their curricula, hoping to encourage empathy and compassion in their students. The effects of teaching the humanities is not limited to the student but can benefit…

  • The hectic life of Leonardo Fioravanti

    Leonardo Fioravanti. Via Wikimedia. The first part of Leonardo Fioravanti’s life was uneventful; the second was tumultuous.1 Born in Bologna in 1517,1-4 he was fortunate in 1527 to survive a violent epidemic that may have been typhus. At age sixteen he began to study medicine, probably as an indentured apprentice to a barber-surgeon. At twenty-two…

  • The revolution of Abraham Flexner and its aftermath

    Picture of Abraham Flexner. From The World’s Work, 1910, by W. M. Hollinger. Via Wikimedia. Unlike his brother Simon, who became a celebrated infectious diseases specialist and director of the Rockefeller Institute, Abraham Flexner was mainly interested in culture and education. He also grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where his father had ended up after…

  • Kathleen (Yardley) Lonsdale DSc., FR

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. Dame Kathleen Lonsdale (née Yardley) by Elliott & Fry. 1996. National Portrait gallery. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971) (Fig 1) like her contemporary Dorothy Hodgkin was one of the women pioneers in a man’s world of professional scientists.1 She developed original techniques in X-ray diffraction of crystals…