Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Charles Dickens

  • The birth of Oliver Twist

    From the book by Charles Dickens, chapter one: “Although I am not disposed to maintain that being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befall a human being, I do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist…

  • Some Dickensian diagnoses

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. Charles Dickens Lithograph by Sol Eytinge,1867, from Dickens and His Illustrators. Internet Archive. Public domain. What a gain it would have been to physic if one so keen to observe and facile to describe had devoted his powers to the medical art. – British Medical Journal obituary, 1870…

  • Herbert William Page and the railway spine controversy

    Jonathan DavidsonDurham, North Carolina, United States The first passenger railway journey resulted in the death of a prominent British politician.1 During the 1830s and 1840s,2 railway travel became a popular means of transport in Victorian Britain. By the 1850s, it was clear that this revolutionary advance in transportation also caused many injuries that resulted in…

  • Hans Christian Andersen, James Young Simpson, and ether frolics

    JMS PearceHull, England, United Kingdom 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 was enthusiastically received by Joseph Hambro, a Danish entrepreneur, banker, whom he knew from…

  • Sarah Gamp: precursor of the nursing profession

    Illustration of Mrs. Gamp by Frederick Barnard. From The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Before the reforms introduced by Florence Nightingale, the nursing profession was exemplified by women such as the famous Sarah (Sairey) Gamp of Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. Described as a fat woman with a…

  • A very Victorian drug

    Anita CookeNew Brunswick, Canada On February 14, 1862, the Daily News reported the “Death of a Lady from an Overdose of Laudanum.”1 Four nights earlier, Dante Gabriel Rossetti had discovered his wife, Lizzie, in a coma with an empty bottle of laudanum by her side. Despite efforts from doctors, she died a few hours later.…

  • Literatim: Essays at the intersections of medicine and culture

    Arpan K. Banerjee Solihull, UK   Cover of Literatim: Essays at the Intersections of Medicine and Culture In this interesting collection, medical historian Howard Markel has brought together his previously published essays from the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and the PBS Newsletter into one volume. The collection of…

  • Children at play in the East London Hospital for Children

    The first hospital for children in London was established with ten beds in 1866 during a terrible cholera epidemic. It relied entirely on charity, was enlarged in 1875 and subsequently expanded, merged, and incorporated into larger facilities until it was closed after the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948. At the time it…

  • A Dickensian medical education

    Gregory Rutecki Lyndhurst, Ohio, United States   Illustration for Nicholas Nickleby by Hablot Browne. 1839. My four grandparents were Polish immigrants who came to America in the early twentieth century. They had no formal education, neither in Poland nor in their new home in Chicago, but worked hard and saved money to pay for the…

  • A hospital for sick children

    Joseph deBettencourt Chicago, Illinois, United States   An artist’s rendering of the original Great Ormond Street Hospital building in 1882, before it was demolished. “49 Great Ormond Street, London, in course of demolition.” J.P. Emslie, 1882, Wellcome Collection, UK  Wellcome Collection. Down a narrow street in an old London neighborhood sat a large, forgotten house.…