Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: January 2021

  • The Girl with a Pearl Earring—A vanitas?

    James Lindesay Leicester, United Kingdom   Girl with a Pearl Earring. Johannes Vermeer. circa 1665. Mauritshuis. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. It is a truism that you only have one opportunity to see a picture for the first time. However, in our image-saturated age, by the time you get to see a famous painting in…

  • Obesity in the Middle Ages: Sancho el Craso

    Nicolás Roberto Robles  Badajoz, Spain “Severe obesity restricts body movements and maneuvers . . . breathing passages become blocked and do not pass good air . . . these patients are at risk of sudden death . . . they are vulnerable to having a stroke, hemiplegia, palpitations, diarrhea, dizziness . . . men are…

  • General Robert E. Lee’s myocardial infarction: Did illness impact the Battle of Gettysburg?

    Lloyd Klein San Francisco, California, United States   Robert E. Lee in March 1864[?]. Photo by Julian Vannerson. Library of Congress. No known restrictions on publication. Ascribing the loss of the Battle of Gettysburg to an illness of General Robert E. Lee became common among historians thirty years ago. The legend of his apparently poor…

  • Medical and other memories of the Cold War and its Iron Curtain

    Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe  Dundee, Scotland, UK   Iron Curtain as described by Churchill 1946. Edited from original. Original by BigSteve via Wikimedia. (CC BY 1.0) In 1946, Winston Churchill named the political barrier appearing between the Soviet bloc and the West the “Iron Curtain.” It lasted until 1991. I met or crossed it several times. The…

  • The novice

    Charles HalstedDavis, California, United States Living in the convent at age eighteen, the novice practiced vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. All she ate was in vain, the more she prayed, the more weight she lost, the weaker she became. I discovered her thin and frail in my clinic. Her stature was a striking feature,…

  • The three contraries of Benjamin Franklin: “the gout, the stone and not yet master of all my passions”

    James L. Franklin Chicago, Illinois, United States   Fig 1: Portrait of Benjamin Franklin. From a carbonic alloy engraving, drawn by C. N. Cochin 1777, engraved by A.H. Richie. Public Domain. Via Wikimedia  On May 23, 1785, Benjamin Franklin wrote from Passy on the outskirts of Paris to George Whatley that “at Fourscore the three…

  • Wellbeing

    Sanjana Sundara Raj Sreenath El Paso, Texas, United States   This painting portrays the physical and psychological impact of the pandemic. It captures not only the physical isolation due to social distancing but also feelings of loneliness. The cognitive and mental health after-effects can persist long after recovering from Covid-19. With increased feelings of anxiety,…

  • Tobias and the Angel—miracle or medical?

    Elizabeth Colledge Jacksonville, Florida, United States Admirers of Andrea del Verrocchio’s painting Tobias and the Angel (circa 1470-1475) may be unaware of the purpose of Tobias’s journey with the archangel Raphael. The Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha posits a story of love and not-so-miraculous healing in seventh century B.C. Nineveh. Tobit, a devout Hebrew, suffers…

  • John Hughlings Jackson

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. John Hughlings Jackson. Selected writings of John Hughlings Jackson: frontispiece. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). “. . . A man among the little band of whom are Aristotle and Newton and Darwin.”  -Gustave I. Schorstein (1863-1906), physician at the London Hospital   The magnitude…

  • Battling poverty, injustice, ignorance and fear, and despair

    Tonse N. K. Raju Gaithersburg, Maryland, United States   Figure 1: Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza (1982), by Maurice D. Pearlman, MD (1915-1985), University of Illinois, Class of 1938. Donated in his memory by his daughter, Martha Pearlman. Assemblage approximately 7’ X 11’. This picture was taken when the statue was on…