Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: June 2023

  • Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and X-rays

    Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, England   Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. LIFE Photo Archive. Via Wikimedia. The name Röntgen will be familiar to most for his discovery of X-rays on November 8, 1895. This date is now celebrated as the International Day of Radiology. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born in Lennep, Germany on March 27, 1845. The…

  • Saving the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “For to this lady, more than any other single person, save Johns Hopkins himself, does the School of Medicine owe its being.”1– Alan Chesney on Mary Elizabeth Garrett Johns Hopkins (1795–1873) was born in Maryland, one of eleven children of a Quaker couple. His father was a tobacco planter. Johns’ first job…

  • The history of fertility preservation in young people with cancer

    Terrence StephensonLondon, England A whole cohort of cancer survivors owe both their lives and the conception of their children to a group of pediatric oncologists and colleagues from many disciplines spanning medicine, science, and the humanities. Their work brought to fruition and revolutionized the long-term care of childhood cancer survivors around the world and is…

  • Fear of being buried alive

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Cremation eliminates all danger of being buried alive.”– “Short reasons for cremation,” an Australian pamphlet, c. 1900 It has been said that one of our most common fears is being buried alive.1 Someone is mistakenly thought dead, placed in a coffin, and buried. We will not discuss other forms of alive burials,…

  • Marie François Xavier Bichat (1771–1802)

    In the universal Pantheon of the medical greats, Xavier Bichat is remembered as “the father of modern histology.” Yet he never used a microscope. He studied the human organs with his naked eye and evaluated them for their physical features (such as elasticity, transparency, and hardness). He postulated that each organ was not a homogenous…

  • Forensic medicine and Sir Bernard Spilsbury

    JMS PearceHull, England A forensic autopsy performed to establish the cause of death is an ancient practice.1 In Europe it was preceded by conventional pathology, as started by Herophilus of Chalcedon (335–280 BC). Medicolegal autopsies to solve legal problems were first performed in Bologna in 1302. During the Middle Ages, physicians’ opinions were sought to…

  • The paradoxical life and art of Robert Colescott

    Mildred WilsonMichigan, United States In 1975, satirist Robert Colescott turned the art community on its head with Eat Dem Taters, a parody of van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters.1,2 He and other postmodernist painters of the period would appropriate images from other artists’ paintings, questioning the concept of originality,2 and his George Washington Carver Crossing the…

  • Dipinto di blu: Turning blue in a Florence hospital

    Giulio Nicita Florence, Italy   A view of Villa Monna Tessa. From the author’s archive. We were in the middle of the 1970s in Florence, Italy. We had concluded the long, tedious years of university study. Real work awaited us in Villa Monna Tessa, a large early 1900s four-story building. It housed several departments of…

  • Drs. Joseph Bell, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Osler, and the method of Zadig

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “The whole of medicine is observation.”– William Osler, M.D. M. de Voltaire, the pen name of François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), was an Enlightenment historian, philosopher, and writer. He opposed France’s absolute monarchy and the power of the church. He wrote 2,000 books and pamphlets, was imprisoned twice, and was once exiled to England…

  • Pavel Ivanovich Jacobi (1841–1913)

    Avi Ohry Tel Aviv, Israel   Pavel Jacobi. Via Wikimedia. Pavel Ivanovich Jacobi (1841–1913), largely forgotten and rarely featured in the psychiatric literature, was a Russian socialist who made as great an impact on the treatment of the mentally ill as Jonathan Swift in Dublin, Phillipp Pinel in Revolutionary France, Father William Tuke and his…