Tag Archives: History Essays

Death, disease, and discrimination during the construction of the Panama Canal (1904-1914)

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Overland Park, Kansas, United States   Theodore Roosevelt, portrait, ca. 1904, Wikipedia Commons, public domain. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (1858-1919) President Theodore Roosevelt envisioned an interoceanic canal as indispensable for American “dominance at the seas.”1 An isthmian canal would facilitate rapid deployment of U.S. Navy ships from Atlantic to Pacific Oceans, bypassing the arduous […]

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 […]

The remarkable Harriet Lane

Colin K. L. Phoon New York, New York, United States   Figure 1. Harriet Lane, accessed from the Library of Congress 09/05/2021, The name “Harriet Lane” is well-known to many pediatricians, but perhaps fewer recognize this woman’s other roles in US history (Hint: She was not a pediatrician!). In fact, the US presidency, the military, […]

Lucrezia Borgia—victim of her times

George Dunea   The only confirmed Lucrezia portrait painted from life. Attributed to Dosso Dossi, c. 1519, National Gallery of Victoria. Via Wikimedia. For five hundred years, society has unfairly blackened the name of Lucrezia Borgia—in history, literature, even in opera. Living at a time when girls could be disposed of at their parents’ whim, […]

The discoverers of aspirin

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Fig 1. Proc Royal Soc 1763, Salix Edmund Stone Willow bark. Source. In the short period between the years 1946-1950, three highly effective new drugs became available for clinical use in the newly established National Health Service. They were penicillin, streptomycin, and cortisone. Before this there were few […]

A look back at insulin

Shrestha Saraf Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom Sanjay Saraf Sudarshan Ramachandran Birmingham, United Kingdom   Sir Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best co-discoverers of Insulin. Library and Archives Canada. Via Wikimedia. As we approach the centenary of the isolation, purification, and clinical use of insulin, it is an appropriate moment to reflect on the impact of […]

Queen Juana: the mad or the betrayed?

Juliana Menegakis London, United Kingdom   Juana I de Castilla, ca. 1500 Master of Affligem. Museo Nacional de Escultura. Via Wikimedia. Juana of Castile is known by her epithet “the Mad.” But was she truly insane? Infanta Juana of Castile and Aragon was born in 1479 to Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of […]

The assassination of President McKinley: death from traumatic gunshot pancreatitis?

Portrait of William McKinley. by Albert C. Fauley, 1896. Via the Ohio State House. On September 6, 1901, the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley, was shot twice with a concealed weapon by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz at the Temple of Music on the grounds of the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo, New York. […]

Syndrome K and the Fatebenefratelli Hospital

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Giovanni Borromeo – Italian doctor – Righteous Among the Nations. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0 “Whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the whole world.” —Talmud (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)1 Italy was an ally of Nazi Germany and was required to enact anti-Semitic laws.2 Beginning in September 1938, […]

The medical exploits of Roald Dahl

JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. Roald Dahl (1916-1990). Photo: © Roald Dahl Nominee Limited. Source Roald Dahl (1916-1990) (Fig 1) was born in Llandaff, Wales. He was named after Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who had reached the South Pole just four years earlier. Dahl is known as a popular author of ingenious, […]