Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: August 2023

  • Last rites x2

    Hugh Tunstall-PedoeDundee, Scotland, United Kingdom In the late 1960s, I was non-resident neurology house physician in a hospital in central London when we admitted a prominent citizen as a private patient. He was suffering from a catastrophic cerebral hemorrhage—he was moribund, but the decision was taken to perform cerebral angiography (it was before the days…

  • Adolf Bastian, pioneering anthropologist

    Adolf Bastian (1826–1905) was one of the pioneers of modern anthropology, born June 26, 1826, in Bremen, Germany. This multicultural port city exposed him to many different cultures and customs, eventually igniting his interest in studying different societies. From his father, who belonged to a well-known merchant family, he inherited a strong instinct for business…

  • Kenelm Digby, polymath and inventor of the wound salve

    Kenelm Digby. Via Wikimedia. Sir Kenelm Digby (1603–1665) was not a physician but came close to practicing medicine. He published in 1658 a treatise called A Late Discourse … Touching the Cure of Wounds by the Powder of Sympathy. It consisted of treating dueling wounds, as proposed by Paracelsus, with a “wound salve,” a mixture…

  • Fossilized tick-borne diseases

    José de la FuenteCiudad Real, Spain Ticks and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and alpha-gal syndrome are a growing burden for human health worldwide.1-3 Alpha-gal syndrome is an emerging allergy associated with tick bites and mammalian meat consumption. It is a potentially life-threatening immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated reaction to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal), which is present in…

  • “Brace, brace, brace!”—“Are we all going to die?”

    Hugh Tunstall-PedoeDundee, Scotland, United Kingdom Flying to and from Scotland as an airline passenger years ago sometimes involved small aircraft. The smallest from Edinburgh to Belfast at one time was so small that a hostess got on at departure, wriggled between the passengers handing out packages, and then squirmed back and disembarked. Perfectly proper, yet…

  • Caterina Sforza of Forli: Warrior and medical alchemist

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Fearless, beautiful, and cunning, Caterina Sforza (1462–1509) fought heroically to defend her fiefdoms of Imola and Forli until the bitter end. Even the celebrated and infamous Renaissance strategist, Niccolò Machiavelli, remarked that he had met his match in Caterina, and confessed he could not outwit her. Historians laud her as…

  • A doctor writes to God

    Nolo Segundo United States   Monsignor Georges Lemaitre, the priest who first theorized the Big Bang, with Albert Einstein at the California Institute of Technology, January 1933. Photo via Wikimedia.  My friend, a retired surgeon, tells me he would like to believe in an almighty and loving God, but claims science, annoyingly, keeps getting in…

  • BCG: The vaccine that took thirteen years to develop

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”– Victor Hugo Tuberculosis of the lungs (“consumption”) was one of the two main causes of death (along with pneumonia) at the start of the twentieth century.1 In the US, pulmonary tuberculosis killed 194 persons per 100,000 in 1900.2 In one Missouri hospital, nearly 25% of patient deaths…

  • Book review: Sir Thomas Browne: The Opium of Time

    Arpan K. BanerjeeSolihull, UK Sir William Osler was a great admirer of Sir Thomas Browne’s 1643 Religio Medici, one of his favorite books and on his recommended reading list for medical men. Browne influenced many writers, such as Samuel Johnson, WG Sebald, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Conrad, and EM Forster. In this slim volume, Gavin…

  • Tumultuous crescendos and tranquil decrescendos in Ravel’s work

    Michael YafiChaden YafiHouston, Texas, United States The world is commemorating the 95th anniversary of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. The composer continues to be one of the most enigmatic classical music personalities. Born in 1875 in Ciboure, France, he displayed from an early age a keen interest in the piano. Guided by his father, who would offer…