Tag Archives: Literary Vignettes

Indo-European for health professionals

Logo of the Asiatic Society of Bengal depicting Sir William Jones. 1905. Via Wikimedia. The Indo-Europeans were a group of people whose language is presumed to be the ancestor of most modern languages spoken in Europe and in parts of Asia. They left behind almost no tangible evidence of their existence other than some funeral […]

Art or science, doctor or shaman?

Ihar Kazak Florida, United States    BEFORE: Centuries ago, such ailment was treated by a shaman. Image credit: A surgeon treating an injury to a man’s foot. Oil painting by a follower of David Teniers the younger. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark It all started with a scratch on my right ankle during a close […]

Omphalos

Margaret Nowaczyk Hamilton, Ontario, Canada   Chambered Nautilus Shell – detail. Photo by Jitze Couperus. 2008. Via Flickr CC BY 2.0 Once, I linked you to the woman who gave birth to you: for forty weeks, a twisted pearly cord, pulsing with two syncopated heartbeats, bound you two together. It fed you and gave you […]

A Regency epitaph for a child

Stephen Martin County Durham, UK   In some spot where common herbage grows Perchance a violet rears its purple head: Some careful gardener plucks it ere it blows To spread and flourish in a nobler bed: Such was thy fate dear child, thy opening such Pre-eminence in early bloom was shown: Too good for earth […]

Companionable books

“Many books are dry and dusty, there is no juice in them; and many are soon exhausted, you would no more go back to them than to a squeezed orange; but some have in them an unfailing sap, both from the tree of knowledge and from the tree of life. “By companionable books I mean […]

Sir Charles Symonds 1890-1978 , the neurologist’s neurologist

There was a time when medical practitioners in England would refer their difficult cases to a neurologist paid by the health services to come once a week to consult at the local hospital. Faced with a difficult or puzzling case, this consultant neurologist would send the patient to be seen at the National Hospital for […]

Haunting poetic characteristics: the dissection scene from Doctor Zhivago

Timo Hannu Helsinki, Finland   Dissecting room from Edinburgh in 1889. Source: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images. Doctor Zhivago, a novel by the Russian poet Boris Pasternak, tells the story of physician-poet Yura Zhivago during the turmoil of the first decades of the twentieth century in Russia. The character of Dr. Zhivago is portrayed as […]

Consider the nails of the hand, how they grow (William Bean)

In the days when the Archives of Internal Medicine was one of the greatest general medicals journal in America, William Bean was its famed editor. Born in 1909 in Manila, he had studied at the University of Charlottesville in Virginia, served in World War II, became professor of medicine in Iowa city, and during his […]

Henrik Ibsen’s diagnosis of the conscience

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, United States   Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the protagonist in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, An Enemy of the People, thought he had finally landed the ideal position as physician for an idyllic Norwegian resort town. He was well-paid and well-connected; his brother was even the mayor. Life and livelihood centered on the […]

“The Grasshopper” by Chekhov: folly and regrets

Diphtheria in the days of writers such as Chekhov and Goncharov was a common disease that spread death and devastation across the wide expanse of the Russian Empire. It could kill its victims by its toxic effects on the heart but more often suffocated them with a grayish white membrane in their throat and nasal […]