Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: September 2021

  • Essential tremor in a medieval scribe: Extracting hidden historical knowledge from the work of the Tremulous Hand

    Andrew WodrichWashington DC, United States Introduction In the Middle Ages, before the ubiquity of the printing press, the act of writing and preserving the knowledge of Western Europe was promulgated primarily by monastic scribes.1 These scribes spent hours toiling away in dark rooms copying, translating, and authoring almost all of the written knowledge of their…

  • Broca’s Brains: A lesson in the importance of saving the history of neuroscience

    Richard Brown Halifax, NS, Canada Thalia Garvock-de Montbrun Montreal, QC, Canada   Figure 1. Brain of patient (Lelong) with aphasia studied by Broca. Photo taken by Richard Brown May 2017. Recent fires at the National Museum of Brazil and at the University of Cape Town in South Africa1,2 have shown the fragility of rare books,…

  • Tutankhamun’s androgynous appearance

    Glenn BraunsteinLos Angeles, California, United States Among the artifacts uncovered in 1922 by the British archeologist Howard Carter from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings tomb of Tutankhamun (~1343-1324 BC) were gilded statues of the young pharaoh in various poses. These statues depict him with androgynous features including wide hips, a sagging belly, and prominent breasts…

  • Matron Charlotte Evelyn Nelson (1938-1954) and her portrait by Alice Burton

    Frederick John O’Dell Northampton, United Kingdom   Miss C E Nelson, 1955, by Alice Burton. Northampton General Hospital private collection. Image photograph by the author. Charlotte Evelyn Nelson (1894-1959) was born on 13 July 1894 in Hull. Before her sixth birthday she was orphaned, as the 1901 census lists her at the Hull Seamans and…

  • Beloved physicians: Three unsung heroes

    John RaffenspergerFort Meyers, Florida, United States Few doctors, especially those who practice in small communities across the land, are remembered for their selfless, unstinting devotion to their patients. They are not considered heroes in the usual sense and sadly, for the most part, are now replaced by dehumanizing corporate medicine. The general practitioner or “GP”…

  • The intricate forest of the neuron

    Silvia Maina Torino, Italia   A Purkinje neuron from the human cerebellum. Ink drawing by Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Entering the room, I was welcomed by some small and attractive ink drawings. In the first, like a genealogical tree or a medieval miniature, thin branches stretched to fill the frame. In the…

  • Stitches as mending, stitches as healing

    Kelley SwainOxfordshire, England Knitwear designer and disability-access advocate Kate Davies writes of discovering her love of knitting at university: “The movement of your hands helped you to find a different kind of mind space. You lost yourself in the rhythm of your own industry. You made a thing.”1 There is something extraordinary about taking one…

  • What’s inside us?: Socio-cultural themes in anatomical naming

    Frazer A. TessemaChicago, Illinois, United States Anatomical terms often read as Latin or Greek gibberish whose main purpose is to be obscure trivia in the first-year medical school ritual called anatomy class. But a surprising trend emerges through the English translations of these archaic names: many parts of the human body are named not for…

  • “Troubled in my eyes”: the risks of reading and writing

    Katherine HarveyLondon, England, United Kingdom On January 1, 1660, a young Londoner named Samuel Pepys began to keep a diary. Over the next nine and a half years, he recorded both events of national significance—the Restoration of King Charles II, the Great Plague, and the Great Fire—as well as the minutiae of his private life,…

  • Eye contact: a gateway to empathy

    David Jeffrey Edinburgh, United Kingdom   Bradley by David Jeffrey “Do you think I needed anticoagulants for my atrial fibrillation?” I asked the general practitioner. He stared at his computer screen, and answered without looking at me. “No-one knows for sure. I will print out a recent article which you can read at home and then…