Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Hansen’s Disease

  • Dr. Gerhard Hansen – A great discoverer

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.”– Isaac Newton Leprosy, from the Greek lepis, meaning scaly, has been known since antiquity. The disease was widespread in continental Europe and in Scandinavia, reaching its peak prevalence in the twelfth century.1 Leprosy was well established in Ireland in the tenth century.…

  • Palo Seco: A leper colony in Panama

    Enrique Chaves-CarballoOverland Park, Kansas The history of leprosy goes back to antiquity and is replete with unscientific prejudices, including the belief that the disease was highly contagious. Therefore, lepers were ostracized from society. It was not until the nineteenth century that Armauer Hansen (1841–1912), a Norwegian physician versed in histopathology, published in 1874 his findings…

  • Robert the Bruce

    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 thereby restoring the independence of Scotland for several centuries. He presents a medical as well as…

  • The Sorokdo National Hospital of South Korea

    Lucy Eum New Brunswick, Canada   The wooden operating table used for vasectomies and sterilizations. Photo by Lucy Eum. 2012. Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, has historically been a highly stigmatized condition.1 For centuries it was thought to be a curse, a punishment for sin, or a hereditary disease.2 It was not until 1873…

  • Jack London’s cloudy crystal ball

    Edward McSweeganKingston, Rhode Island, United States The COVID-19 pandemic has given quarantined readers new opportunities to discover the literature of plagues and epidemics. Many people—in order to give context to the present pandemic—have turned to books like Albert Camus’ classic novel The Plague, Daniel DeFoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, Steven King’s The Stand,…

  • The scourge, the scientist, and the swindle

    Anne JacobsonOak Park, Illinois, United States “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live…

  • Saint Peter and Hansen’s disease?

    Did Saint Peter have leprosy, or perhaps some other cause of injury to the ulnar nerve? It would seem so, according to Dr. Bennett Futterman, professor of anatomy in New York. In a recent book he points out that the traditional blessing of the Pope—ring and little finger bent inward as in the clawhand deformity…