Moments in History - Hektoen International

The mysterious illness of Christopher Columbus

Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus. Oil portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. It is well known that Christopher Columbus left Spain in 1492 and sailed westward on three small ships, the Santa María, Niña, and Pinta, in search of a northwest passage to […]

Healer of the pharaohs: History’s first woman doctor

Matthew Turner Washington, US   Fragment of a queen’s face. Yellow jasper statue fragment from the Egyptian New Kingdom, c. 1390–1336 BC. Met Museum. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Some 4500 years ago, as the great pyramids rose above the desert sands of Egypt, there lived a remarkable woman. Her name was Peseshet, and she is humanity’s […]

Operation Pedro Pan: Saving Cuban children from communism

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Cuban children in line to emigrate. Photo via DEFELIX on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0. In 1959, lawyer and revolutionary Fidel Castro (1926–2016) overthrew the corrupt, US-supported government of Fulgencio Batista, the dictator of Cuba. Castro promised reforms and democracy. However, early in his regime, members of the Batista government were […]

The Royal Society of Medicine of London: A brief history

Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, England   RSM, 1 Wimpole Street, London. Photo by Philafrenzy, 2017, on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0. The origins of the Royal Society of Medicine in London can be traced back to 1805. It was in that year that a breakaway group of learned physicians and surgeons formed a new medical society, […]

The surgeon’s photograph of the Loch Ness monster

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “Whatever is the truth, there is no denying that Nessie will continue to intrigue the world for years to come.” – Johnathan Bright, Oxford Internet Institute   The iconic “photo” of the Loch Ness Monster. Via Wikimedia. Fair use. Loch Ness, at thirty-seven kilometers long and 230 meters deep at […]

Robert the Bruce

Crop of Robert the Bruce statue, Bannockburn. kim traynor on geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 2.0. Robert the Bruce and leprosy King Robert I of the Scots (1274–1329), better known as Robert the Bruce, is revered in Scotland as a national hero. He is principally remembered for defeating the English at Bannockburn in 1314 and […]

Hans Christian Andersen, James Young Simpson, and ether frolics

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Fig 1. Hans Christian Andersen in 1869. Odense City Museums via Wikimedia. In May 1847, the widely admired writer of literary fairy tales and stories Hans Christian Andersen (Fig 1) left Copenhagen on a tour of Germany and Holland and arrived in London on June 23. There he […]

The secret medical school in the Warsaw Ghetto

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Poland, Warsaw Ghetto. Passers-by next to a Jewish child in rags lying on the sidewalk (sleeping, sick or dying?). 1941. German Federal Archives. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0 DE. In September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The invaders quickly started to repress the Jews of Poland and confiscate their property […]

Achilles and his famous tendon

Krzyś Stachak Bielsko-Biala, Poland   Photo of Marek Citko. August 2007. Photo by Sławek. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 2.0. The Achilles tendon is one of the best-known parts of the human body not only because of its name but also because injuries to it are so common. As the largest tendon in the body, it […]

Selman Waksman, “father of antibiotics” and conquest of tuberculosis

[Dr. Selman Waksman, half-length portrait, facing left at work in the laboratory] / World Telegram & Sun photo by Roger Higgins. 1953. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Selman Abraham Waksman came to the United States in 1910 and worked for a few years on a farm in New Jersey. Born in a rural […]