Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Day: April 12, 2021

  • The last iron lungs

    Charles HalstedDavis, California, United States In the springtime of my internship year, I rotated onto the polio ward where I learned that poliomyelitis could kill by paralyzing the muscles of breathing. Eight years before, Salk had shown that injection of his vaccine of inactive virus could prevent polio about half the time. By nineteen sixty,…

  • Pursuing “conclusions infinite”: The divine inspiration of Georg Cantor

    Sylvia Karasu New York, New York, United States Georg Cantor, German mathematician, 1845–1918. Cantor as an older man, date unknown. Cantor was not quite age 73 when he died of heart failure. Photo Credit: Colport/Alamy Stock Photo. Used with permission. There is a “fine line between brilliance and madness”: the distinction, for example, between a…

  • Our celiac boarder

    Charles HalstedDavis, California, United States I listened with care to her history of weight loss, grain aversion, abdominal cramps, and frequent diarrhea. Her great-grandfather was an early California settler who had experienced the same symptoms for many years before he died. My patient, now in the middle years of her life, appeared normal, except for…

  • COVID-19 and 1665: Learning from Daniel Defoe

    Brian BirchSouthampton, Hampshire, UK Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is an account of the 1665 Great Plague of London. Based on eyewitness experience, the undersigned initials “H. F.” suggest the author’s uncle, Henry Foe, as its primary source. Published in 1722, it stands as the most reliable and comprehensive account of the…

  • Leonhard Thurneysser: scholar, alchemist, and miracle doctor

    Leonard Thurneysser. Via The National Library of Medicine. A highly controversial figure even in his time, Leonhard Thurneysser remains to this very day for some a revered scientist and for others a resolute quack. Born 1531 in Basel, he was the son of a goldsmith and followed in his father’s profession. He also studied with…