Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: March 2021

  • Selman Waksman, “father of antibiotics” and conquest of tuberculosis

    Selman Abraham Waksman came to the United States in 1910 and worked for a few years on a farm in New Jersey. Born in a rural town in Ukraine in 1888, he had become familiar as a child with that country’s rich black soil and developed an interest that later influenced the direction of his…

  • The derailment of Franklin Pierce

    Jacob Appel New York, New York, United States Few subjects have attracted as much attention from medical historians, both well-founded and speculative, as the health of United States presidents. Considerable debate exists over the extent of impairment caused by Lincoln’s bouts of melancholia,1 Grant’s alcoholism,2 Wilson’s stroke,3 and Coolidge’s depression4—to name only those chief executives from…

  • Of Mice and Men: A differential diagnosis for Lennie Small

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden In John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men,1 the two main characters work as itinerant laborers on farms and ranches in California during the Great Depression. Their only attachments are to each other. George is “small and quick” with “sharp, strong features,” while his companion, Lennie, is “a huge man, shapeless…

  • Agricola’s De re metallica: an early description of industrial diseases

    The “Father of Mineralogy,” Georgius Agricola. Via Wikimedia. Georg Bauer was born in Saxony in 1494 and went by the name of Georgius Agricola because in his time academicians often latinized their name, so that Bauer in German translated into Agricola, meaning peasant or farmer. He was a medical practitioner in a small mining town…

  • Book review: John Keats’ Medical Notebook

    Arpan K. BanerjeeSolihull, United Kingdom February 23, 2021 marked the bicentenary of the death of the great Romantic poet John Keats. Born in 1795, Keats lived a tragically short life, dying at the age of only twenty-five. It is perhaps little known that he first qualified as an apothecary doctor before giving up medicine for…

  • American ginseng as an herbal emissary influencing Qing-American trade relations

    Richard Zhang Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States   Panax quinquefolium, as featured in a book by physician-botanist Jacob Bigelow, late 1810s. Public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. On February 22, 1784, the Empress of China set sail from New York Harbor.1 Destined for the eponymous country, the American ship carried thirty tons of a wild root—ginseng.…

  • A wrong time to die

    Anthony Papagiannis Thessaloniki, Greece   Lockdown in Thessaloniki. Photo by the author. Death is the one absolute and unexceptional certainty in life. In the Bible we read that there is a time for everything, including a time to die [Ecclesiastes 3:2]. Is there ever a “right” time to die? Faced with such a question, we…

  • Maria Callas—her inner voice revealed

    Eelco WijdicksLea DacyRochester, Minnesota, United States In Prima Donna: The Psychology of Maria Callas, Paul Wink convincingly concludes—based on largely secondary sources—that Maria Callas was not only a wildly ambitious operator who was not known for an emollient manner, but a prime example of narcissism. Wink, a professor of psychology at Wellesley College, used conventional…

  • Ivan Illich after almost half a century

    Photo of Ivan Illich. Via Wikimedia. Ivan Illich died in 2002 and is now in danger of being forgotten. His famous book, Medical Nemesis,1 appeared in 1975 and captured the imagination and approbation of many. He was a vehement critic of the “medical establishment,” which he regarded as a threat to people’s health. He was…

  • The proximity of death

    Paul C. Rosenblatt St. Paul, Minnesota, United States   A family outing at Lincoln Park in Chicago a few weeks before the author became ill. Pictured are the author, his mother Rose Rosenblatt, and his sister Doris Rosenblatt (now Kopfstein). Photo taken by the author’s father Harry Rosenblatt and published with permission of the author.…