Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Bacteria

  • Koch’s postulates revisited

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1722), a Dutch botanist, using his early microscope observed single-celled bacteria, which he reported to the Royal Society as animalcules. The science of bacteriology owes its origin to two scientists of coruscating originality, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. Pasteur may be described as master-architect and Koch as master-builder…

  • Andersonville, Georgia and Elmira, New York: When Hell was on Earth

    Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” — Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy   Andersonville Prison, Georgia. South end view of the stockade, showing the sentry stands in the distance. Photographed by A.J. Riddle, August 17, 1864. Library of Congress Liljenquist Family Collection. No known restrictions on publication. Elmira Prison, Elmira,…

  • Recognition at last

    Jayant Radhakrishnan Darien, Illinois, United States Andrew Moyer, in his Peoria laboratory, discovered the process for mass producing penicillin. USDA-ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. Public domain.    “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”  — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream     The adage “out of sight, out of mind” appears to…

  • Giovanni Boccaccio on pandemics past and present

    Constance Markey Chicago, IL   The plague of Florence, 1348; an episode in the Decameron by Boccaccio. Etching by L. Sabatelli the elder after G. Boccaccio. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)) Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) is universally celebrated for his masterpiece The Decameron, an appealing assemblage of one hundred loosely connected novellas,…

  • Use of masks to control the spread of infection: more than a century of confusion

    Jayant RadhakrishnanDarien, Illinois, United States Johann von Mickulicz-Radecki (1850-1905) was an ardent advocate of the one-time novel concept of aseptic surgery. To improve his results, he began working with a hygienist and bacteriologist, Carl Flugge (1847-1923), who pointed out possible sources of infection for the surgical patient, including droplets dispersed from the nose and mouth…

  • Have we learned anything from 1918–1919 influenza?

    Edward Winslow Wilmette, Illinois, United States Actual daily deaths from influenza, September to November 1918. Monthly Bulletin of the Department of Health, December 1918. NYC Municipal Library. Source.  The 2020 viral pandemic (COVID-19),1 in spite of being caused by a novel virus family, bears striking epidemiological and social resemblance to the influenza pandemic of 1918.2 Both…

  • The Schoolhouse Lab

    Edward McSweeganKingston, Rhode Island, United States “Black measles” was a common name for spotted fever, which regularly killed people in the western United States. Symptoms included a spotty rash on the extremities, fever, chills, headache, and photophobia. No one knew what caused it. The first recorded case in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley was in 1873.1 Twenty-three…

  • David Bruce, discoverer of brucellosis

    Early life Every medical student would be expected to know something about brucellosis, though quite unlikely to ever see a case. He would have to know that the disease in man may be caused by the Brucella of goats, swine, or cows, but apparently not by that of dogs, foxes, or fish. Bright students might…

  • The bubonic plague in Eyam

    JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   William Mompesson In medicine most instances of outstanding acts of heroic human courage relate to individual patients or to their attendant doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Here is a unique example of the collective self-sacrifice of a tiny rural community, which probably saved the lives of thousands. The year…

  • Epidemics from plague to Coronavirus

    Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome. From the Internet Archive’s copy of Eugen Hollände Die Karikatur und Satire in der Medizin: Medico-Kunsthistorische Studie von Professor Dr. Eugen Holländer. circa 1656. Throughout history humanity has faced many epidemics and pandemics that caused…