Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Category: Science

  • Scientific discoveries in dreams: Sleeping while the mind works

    Edward TaborBethesda, Maryland, United States Some major scientific discoveries have been revealed in dreams during sleep. Since ancient times, Western culture has included a deep belief in the power of dreams to provide information. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 500 BC) spoke of how “even in their sleep men are at work.”1 The Roman emperor…

  • The periodic table of the elements

    In this system hydrogen is assigned the number one, lithium is three, carbon six, nitrogen seven, oxygen eight, etc. The elements are organized in rows or periods and columns or groups according to their atomic weight. The elements were discovered beginning in the 18th century when the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered oxygen (1772),…

  • Love thy neighbour?: Peace-loving primates

    JMS PearceHull, England One of the greatest mysteries about human beings is the contrast between their intelligence, inventiveness, creativity and their extraordinary compulsion for self-destruction and violence. How can humans, blessed with compassion, charity and sympathy, combined with knowledge, self–awareness and understanding, so readily embrace acts of violence, destruction of ourselves both individually and collectively?…

  • Röntgen’s birthplace

    Arpan K. BanerjeeSolihull, United Kingdom November 8th is World Radiology Day and celebrates the discovery of X-rays by Röntgen, who was a fifty-year-old relatively unknown physics professor at the University of Wurzburg in 1895 when he made his important discovery.   Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born on 11 March 1845 in the house shown in the…

  • Opium and its derivatives

    Humans have taken psychotropic drugs since time immemorial, for pleasure and for pain. Opium was used by the Sumerians during the Neolithic era and mentioned in the Egyptian Papyrus Ebers and in ancient Chinese manuscripts. It was prescribed by the Greek and Roman physicians, by Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Pliny, Celsus, and Galen. The Roman emperor Marcus…

  • An ode to the cloaca

    Jayant RadhakrishnanDarien, Illinois, United StatesAnant Radhakrishnan Amarillo, Texas, United States The term cloaca was first used around 600 BC by the Romans who named their main drainage channel the “Cloaca Maxima” or the Greatest Sewer. It drained the local marshes and all water and effluent from Rome into the Tiber River. They continued expanding it so…

  • Historical and modern diagnoses of Darwin’s chronic illness

    Stephen KentWarrington, United Kingdom Introduction Charles Darwin has been the subject of intense study over the last 140 years, not only because of his publication of The Origin of Species through Natural Selection, but also because his extensive correspondence gives a clear insight into the character of the man himself. One of his preoccupations in…

  • Justus von Liebig (1803–1873)

    Philip LiebsonChicago, Illinois, United States An extraordinary chemist, Justus von Liebig influenced the development of organic chemistry, scientific teaching of chemistry, and the application of chemistry to physiology and agriculture. He was one of the forerunners of the German educators who influenced the evolution to the outstanding scientific and educational standards of the late nineteenth…

  • Friedrich Wöhler (1800–1882)

    When the proteins of the human body are broken down to their constituent amino acids, they are converted to ammonia (NH3), which, being toxic, is metabolized in the liver to urea. As the main nitrogenous end product of proteins, urea is found mainly in the blood, but to some extent also in bile, milk, and…

  • Did Scythian men feminize themselves by drinking mare’s urine?

    Andrew WilliamsLeicester, United Kingdom The Enarees were nomadic Scythian soothsayers who lived within the areas bounded by the rivers Danube, Bug, Don, and Dnieper, and who Herodotus in the 5th century AD asserted were effeminate.1,2 Unfortunately the Scythians did not leave any written records. Hippocrates’ Airs Water and Places XX11 using the term Anarieis related…