Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Herbert William Page and the railway spine controversy

Jonathan Davidson Durham, North Carolina, United States   Figure 1. Herbert William Page. Archives of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 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, […]

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 […]

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 Cooke New Brunswick, Canada   Elizabeth Siddal Plaiting her Hair by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Tate Gallery London. Date unknown. Photo © Tate. CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0. 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 […]

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. […]

The medical journey of Charles Dickens

Lea Mendes Lisboa, Portugal   John Leech illustration – Scrooge confronts Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. At the time of the London Great Exhibition of 1851, the United Kingdom was the wealthiest and most industrialized country in the world.1 The most popular and quintessential Victorian writer was Charles Dickens […]

From Merdle to Madoff (Charles Dickens)

They found him sprawled out in his bath, ‘lying in it as in a grave or sarcophagus . . . the white marble at the bottom of the bath veined with a dreadful red . . . on his side an empty laudanum-bottle and a tortoise-shell handled penknife–soiled, but not with ink.’ ‘Separation of jugular […]