Moments in History – Hektoen International

Washington and his spectacles

Ronald S. Fishman Chicago, IL, USA   “Washington as General commanding Continental Army” by John Peale. Between circa 1781 and circa 1790. Credit: Independence National Historical Park Collection in Philadelphia. Public Domain. After accepting the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, Washington took most of the Continental Army back up to the Northeast to […]

Francesco Antommarchi, the Malvolio of St. Helena

Francesco Carlo Antommarchi (1780-1838) was a man of dubious character who served as Napoleon’s physician on the island of St. Helena from 1818 until his death in 1821. He began his education in Livorno, Italy, then in Pisa and Florence, graduating with a degree in surgery in 1812. For the next six years he practiced neither surgery […]

Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary” ) 1516-1558

During her relatively short life, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had a rough time. After her mother’s marriage was annulled, she was not allowed to see her and was declared illegitimate. Her father would have nothing to do with her and once even threatened to execute her if she did not […]

Oliver Cromwell’s illnesses and death

Many accounts of Cromwell’s health are unreliable and biased because they were written by royalists. What can be discerned, however, is that in London in 1628 at the age of twenty-nine, Cromwell consulted the greatest doctor of the day, Sir Theodore Mayerne, whose records indicate that he had excessive cough and phlegm, some digestive problems, […]

Hasting Banda: family doctor turned tyrant

  In his 1936 list of Truants in medicine who “deserted medicine” and yet perhaps to his surprise or condescension “triumphed,” Lord Moynihan of Leeds listed mainly successful men of science or letters. Actors and sportsmen, however famous, were not included. But mentioned were several people who “strayed to politics,” notably Clemenceau, Sun Yat Sen, […]

The public death of Prince Albert

Death in modern times tends to be a private affair, whether in hospital, hospice, or in the home. But in the past no such privacy was accorded to royalty, as shown in this painting of the last moments of Albert, the beloved Prince Consort of Queen Victoria. The Prince died in 1861 after a brief […]

Ibn Rushd (Averroes), medieval polymath

It is hard to know what to make of someone who has written books on philosophy, theology, medicine, astronomy, physics, law, and linguistics. In our time this would have been impossible. Not so in medieval Andalusia, where Ibn Rushd, now best known under his Latinized name of Averroes, never missed a day reading or writing […]

Jean Cruveilhier – first described the lesions of multiple sclerosis

Jean Cruveilhier was born in 1791 in Limoges, France, the son of a military surgeon. He had intended to become a priest but changed his mind at the insistence of his father and became a doctor, graduating from the University of Paris in 1816. In 1823 he was appointed professor of surgery at the University of […]

Pedanius Dioscorides: The first encyclopedia of plants and drugs

Pedanius Dioscorides (c.29-90 AD) lived in the time of the notorious Roman Emperor Nero and is believed to have traveled widely with his armies, which gave him an opportunity to study and collect a wide variety of medicinal plants. Born in the town of Anazarbius, in what now is southern Turkey close to the Syrian […]

Celiac disease, Areteus, and Samuel Gee

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which eating gluten proteins damages the villi of the small intestine causing food malabsorbion. It was described around the first part of the second century A.D. by Aretaeus of Cappadocia as a state in which the food is not broken down in the stomach but passes on undigested and […]