Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: August 2021

  • Pieter Bruegel and The Parable of the Blind

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch.”—Matthew 15:14, King James Version 21st Century The Netherlandish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (b.ca.1525-d.1569), who lived and worked in Brussels, was considered “the most perfect painter of his century.”1…

  • Love and death; Painting the farewell

    Giovanni CeccarelliRome, Italy When Ferdinand Hodler met Valentine Godé-Darel, a thirty-five-year-old woman divorced from a Sorbonne professor ruined by gambling, at the Kursaal in Geneva at the end of 1908 or beginning of 1909, he was already a famous painter. His two paintings Nighta and Day,b in which “the same spirit permeates all things, manifesting…

  • “John Barleycorn Must Die”: Addiction attributions in Jack London’s Alcoholic Memoirs

    Ad A. Kaptein Barend W. Florijn Pim B. van der Meer Leiden, the Netherlands   L’Arlésienne (portret van Madame Ginoux). Vincent Van Gogh. 1890. Kröller-Müller Museum. A thousand words every morning—with iron discipline, Jack London adhered to his writing routine. Later in the day, he would turn to John Barleycorn: beer, wine, whisky, and brandy.…

  • History of medicine in ancient India

    Keerthana Kalla Seattle, Washington, United States   Shushrut Statue In Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar. Photo by Alokprasad. 2009. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0. The chronicle of medicine is the story of man’s struggle against illness. As early as 5000 BC, India developed a comprehensive form of healing called Ayurveda. Such traditional healing was first recorded between…

  • In sickness and in health: misogyny in medicine

    Shreya Sharma Ontario, Canada   Image by Rene Asmussen from Pixabay “You see, he does not believe I am sick! And what can one do?”1 These words, spoken by the unnamed narrator of Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s 1892 short story The Yellow Wallpaper, could have been articulated by many women about their medical experiences. Women have…

  • Strabismo di Venere—Michelangelo’s David

    Kevin R. LoughlinBoston, Massachusetts, United States It is one of the most recognizable sculptures in Western art, the work of an acclaimed Renaissance artist. For over 600 years, it has been viewed by millions of tourists and by millions more in photographs or books. Yet until recently, an obvious physical abnormality had gone largely unrecognized.…

  • The history of polio and cigarettes, and the need for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate

    Daniel Gelfman Indianapolis, Indiana, United States   Polio Vaccine and Fundraising Matchbook. Photograph at the Science History Institute, Philadelphia. Photo Credit: Daniel Gelfman, July 3, 2021. Depicted in this display (Picture 1) at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia are technologic marvels. The first is a box that contained early vials of Dr. Salk’s formalin…

  • A confession from a patient of atopic dermatitis

    Yen-Hsiang Wang Taipei, Taiwan   Photo by the author I am one of the ten to twenty percent of people in the world with atopic dermatitis. Allergies to environmental factors such as dust mites and certain foods contribute to this condition. Immune function is also an important factor, as evidenced by immunoglobulin E (IgE) and…

  • Book review: “All manner of ingenuity and industry”: a bio-bibliography of Dr. Thomas Willis 1621–1675

    Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, United Kingdom   Cover of “All manner of ingenuity and industry” by Alastair Compston. Thomas Willis, born four hundred years ago, is still known by students of neuroanatomy today for the eponymous Circle of Willis. Yet most doctors do not know the story of Willis, the seventeenth-century British physician and his…

  • Medical school final exams: playing the odds

    Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Five men toast around a table. Unknown photographer. between circa 1890 and circa 1910. Nordic Museum NMA.0057916. Via Wikimedia I had finished eighteen months of clinical rotations at an American hospital and was back at my medical school in Belgium to take final exams. I checked in to a small…