Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Howard Fischer

  • Burial in modern Greece

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden While much is known about funeral customs in ancient Greece, the particulars of burial in modern Greece have received little outside attention. Today, one half of the population of Greece lives in the two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. There is not enough space in big urban centers to conduct burials that…

  • What would one prefer to say about Bartleby?

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Bartleby is the enigmatic personality par excellence.”1 Herman Melville (1819–1891) was a prolific American novelist and poet. He was born in New York City. Both of his grandfathers were officers in the Colonial Army during the American Revolution, one a colonel, the other a general. When his family had financial troubles, he…

  • Chocolate created a commotion in Chiapa cathedral

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Beware the chocolate of Chiapas.”—Mexican saying The cacao bean, the essential ingredient in chocolate, is native to Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. There is evidence that chocolate was used in Ecuador over 5,000 years ago.1 The Aztecs produced a ceremonial drink called chocolatl. The Spanish invaders of the New World…

  • The bow tie: For nerds only or necessary neckwear?

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “You’ve been with the professors / and they all liked your looks…”–Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man” The tie, whether the long necktie or the bow tie, is a piece of apparel without any real function. It is widely believed that in the late sixteenth century, Croatian mercenary soldiers tied a…

  • Marcel Marceau saved children with silence

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “The people who came back from the camps were never able to talk about it…”– Marcel Marceau, French entertainer, explaining why he acted without words Marcel Marceau (1923–2007) entertained people all over the world for sixty years as a mime. He was born Marcel Mangel in Strasbourg, France, to a Jewish family.…

  • The Polish Medical School at Edinburgh University, 1941–1949

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “…an affirmation that science can be international…”– Surgeon Antoni Jurasz (1882–1961), dean of the Polish Medical School After the Nazi army invaded Poland, the remnants of the Polish military evacuated to France. When France was invaded in the summer of 1940, the Polish forces were sent to Scotland to participate in the…

  • Lydia Sherman, serial poisoner

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden Poisons were easily obtainable in the nineteenth century, sold for use as household cleaners, vermin control, and in agriculture. By the 1820s, Americans feared being secretly poisoned, “and considered the incidence of murder by poison to be quite high.”1 This “poison panic” was fed by prominent, well-publicized trials. The high incidence of…

  • Is Betteridge’s law valid?

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “[I am]…best-known for something that was intended as a throwaway remark.”1—Ian Betteridge Ian Betteridge, a technology journalist, stated in 2009, “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no.’” He meant, of course, only yes-or-no type questions. His idea was that if the writer or publisher…

  • Forty years a watchdog: Sidney Wolfe, M.D.

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Somebody has to look out for the people who are being manipulated by hospitals, doctors, insurance and drug companies.”– Sidney Wolfe, MD, 1993 Sidney Wolfe, MD, (1937–2024) was the co-founder in 1971 of the Health Research Group (HRG), a consumer and health advocacy lobbying organization. After earning his medical degree from what…

  • George Orwell: Obsessed with rats

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Of all the horrors—a rat.”– George Orwell, 1984 It is said that author George Orwell (1903–1950), born Eric Blair, was “obsessed” with rats.1 Rats are mentioned in his novels, essays, diaries, and letters. As he got older, he became more rat-obsessed. He has been called “a kind of literary pied piper dancing…