Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

On Hortons among history

Avi Ohry
Tel Aviv, Israel

I believe I met Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, in 1999 in Glasgow during the two-day symposium on Medicine & Literature on the 400-year anniversary of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. On that occasion, I also met and chatted with Professor William Bryan Jennett CBE (1926–2008), originator of the “Glasgow Coma Scale,”1 and Sir Roger Bannister (1929–2018), who ran the first sub-4-minute mile in 1954 and became a neurologist at St Mary’s and Queen Square Hospitals.2

Digging into the history of medicine, I found another Horton who had made his mark: when temporal cranial arteritis causes severe throbbing headache in patients with anorexia, insomnia, and low-grade fever, it is called “Horton syndrome.” Blindness may occur if the ophthalmic artery is involved. Although it was first described by Sir Jonathan Hutchinson in 1890 and later by London neurologist Wilfred Harris in 1926, the condition is named Horton’s cephalalgia after Bayard Taylor Horton (1895–1980), an American neurologist. Horton also described pulmonary arteriovenous fistula which was associated with secondary polycythemia.3,4

I was not amazed to read that William Thomas Horton (1864–1919), a mystic, illustrator, and author, was one of the “Smithers People.” The publisher Leonard Smithers (1861–1907) illustrated WB Yeats’ books. It remains an open question if Horton’s early occultism and mysticism later influenced the aging Yeats to undergo the notorious Steinach operation. This procedure, also known as the “Steinach vaso-ligature,” was created by Eugen Steinach, an Austrian physiologist and endocrinologist who discovered the relationship between sex hormones and human physical identifiers, believing it would reduce fatigue and slow down the aging process by unilateral vasectomy.5

There was also the Horton Hospital, Long Grove Road, Epsom, Surrey (its story is interesting); Horton Asylum (1902–1915); Horton War Hospital (1915–1918); Horton Mental Hospital (1918–1937); and Horton War Hospital (1939–1949).6

And finally, Randall Gavin Horton, an American Associate Professor of English who teaches on challenging questions of racism, sexism, and classism.7

End notes

  1. Teasdale G, Jennett B. Assessment of coma and impaired consciousness. A practical scale. Lancet Jul 13, 1974;2(7872):81-4.
  2. Further reading: Riggs JE, Watson DB. “Between false modesty … and conceit” – Sir Roger Bannister. Hektoen International History Essays, Winter 2022. https://hekint.org/2022/01/10/between-false-modesty-and-conceit-sir-roger-bannister/.
  3. Horton BT, Magath TB, Brown GE. An undescribed form of arteritis of the temporal vessels. Proc Mayo Clin 1932;7:700-1.
  4. Smith HL, Horton BT. Arteriovenous fistula of the lung associated with polycythemia vera; report of case in which the diagnosis was made clinically. Am Heart J 1939;18:589-92.
  5. Pruitt VD, Pruitt RD. Yeats and the Steinach Operation. American Imago Fall 1977;34(3):287.
  6. On Horton Asylum: Lost Hospitals of London. https://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/horton.html.
  7. Horton RG. Two Poems by Randall Horton. LitHub Sept 15, 2020. https://lithub.com/two-poems-by-randall-horton/.

AVI OHRY, MD, is married with two daughters. He is Emeritus Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at Tel Aviv University, the former director of Rehabilitation Medicine at Reuth Medical and Rehabilitation Center in Tel Aviv, and a member of The Lancet‘s Commission on Medicine & the Holocaust. He conducts award-winning research in neurological rehabilitation, bioethics, medical humanities and history, and on long-term effects of disability and captivity. He plays the drums with three jazz bands.

Winter 2024



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