Tag Archives: Moments in History

Hans Christian Andersen, James Young Simpson, and ether frolics

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Fig 1. Hans Christian Andersen in 1869. Source: 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 […]

The secret medical school in the Warsaw Ghetto

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Poland, Warsaw Ghetto. Passers-by next to a Jewish child in rags lying on the sidewalk (sleeping, sick or dying?). 1941. German Federal Archives. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0 DE. In September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The invaders quickly started to repress the Jews of Poland and confiscate their property […]

Achilles and his famous tendon

Krzyś Stachak Bielsko-Biala, Poland   Photo of Marek Citko. August 2007. Photo by Sławek. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 2.0. The Achilles tendon is one of the best-known parts of the human body not only because of its name but also because injuries to it are so common. As the largest tendon in the body, it […]

Selman Waksman, “father of antibiotics” and conquest of tuberculosis

[Dr. Selman Waksman, half-length portrait, facing left at work in the laboratory] / World Telegram & Sun photo by Roger Higgins. 1953. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Selman Abraham Waksman came to the United States in 1910 and worked for a few years on a farm in New Jersey. Born in a rural […]

On the uncertainty of human affairs

By numberless examples it will appear evident that human affairs are as subject to change and fluctuation as the waters of the sea, agitated by the winds. And also how pernicious, often to themselves and even to their people, are the precipitate measures of our rulers, when actuated only by some vain project, or present […]

Abraham Lincoln’s smallpox

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad looking at an album of photographs. Anthony Berger. 1864. Library of Congress. A brutal, bloody civil war had been tearing the United States of America apart for two years when President Abraham Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863. Four months before […]

Sir Frederick Treves, who operated on King Edward VII

Frederick Treves was born in Dorchester in 1853 and studied medicine at the London Hospital Medical College. He gained fame as Royal Surgeon to Edward VII, operating on his appendix just two days before the planned coronation. His decision to operate on June 24, 1902, caused the coronation to be postponed, and considering that the […]

“Gentlemen! This is no humbug.”

Summer A. Niazi Jack E. Riggs Morgantown, West Virginia, United States   First Operation Under Ether, by Robert C. Hinckley, Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 1882-1893 (Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology) Source The words “Gentlemen! This is no humbug” is one of the most famous statements in the history of […]

Phillipe Gaucher (1854-1918)

Philippe Charles Ernest Gaucher. Via Wikimedia. In the days when syphilis was rampant in Europe and diagnostic modalities few, many unrelated medical conditions were erroneously attributed to it. There was, for example, the distinguished professor of syphilology and dermatology at the Hôpital Saint-Antoine and the University of Paris, who “aggressively promoted” the idea that poliomyelitis […]

Deserving but unrecognized: the forty-first seat

Marshall A. Lichtman Rochester, New York, United States   This gold medal is given to each laureate in literature. Each medal has one face that bears a profile of Alfred Nobel with his name and the date of his birth and death inscribed; the alternative side is unique to the discipline being honored. The medal […]