Tag Archives: Moments in History

Oliver Cromwell’s illnesses and death

Many accounts of Cromwell’s health are unreliable and biased because they were written by royalists. What can be discerned, however, is that in London in 1628 at the age of twenty-nine, Cromwell consulted the greatest doctor of the day, Sir Theodore Mayerne, whose records indicate that he had excessive cough and phlegm, some digestive problems, […]

Hasting Banda: family doctor turned tyrant

In his 1936 list of Truants in medicine who “deserted medicine” and yet perhaps to his surprise or condescension “triumphed,” Lord Moynihan of Leeds listed mainly successful men of science or letters. Actors and sportsmen, however famous, were not included. But mentioned were several people who “strayed to politics,” notably Clemenceau, Sun Yat Sen, and […]

The public death of Prince Albert

Death in modern times tends to be a private affair, whether in hospital, hospice, or in the home. But in the past no such privacy was accorded to royalty, as shown in this painting of the last moments of Albert, the beloved Prince Consort of Queen Victoria. The Prince died in 1861 after a brief […]

Ibn Rushd (Averroes), medieval polymath

It is hard to know what to make of someone who has written books on philosophy, theology, medicine, astronomy, physics, law, and linguistics. In our time this would have been impossible. Not so in medieval Andalusia, where Ibn Rushd, now best known under his Latinized name of Averroes, never missed a day reading or writing […]

Jean Cruveilhier – first described the lesions of multiple sclerosis

Jean Cruveilhier was born in 1791 in Limoges, France, the son of a military surgeon. He had intended to become a priest but changed his mind at the insistence of his father and became a doctor, graduating from the University of Paris in 1816. In 1823 he was appointed professor of surgery at the University of […]

Otto Kahler, Bence Jones, and multiple myeloma

Dr. Otto Kahler (1849-1893) was inducted into the pantheon of eponymy for reporting in 1889 the details of a patient suffering from multiple myeloma. Born and educated in Prague, Kahler became a professor of medicine in his home town, but in 1889 moved to a similar professorial position in Vienna. Influenced during a sabbatical in […]

The ligament of Vaclav Treitz

Vaclav Treitz (1819-1872) was born in Bohemia, studied humanities at the Charles University in Prague, and obtained his medical degree there in 1846. He then furthered his education at the New or Second Vienna School under the great luminaries of the time, Karl Rokitansky, Joseph Skoda, and Ferdinand von Hebra. He specifically worked in anatomy […]

Erasistratus

Erasistratus (304–250 BC) founded a school of anatomy in Alexandria, where he described the valves of the heart; concluded that the heart functioned as a pump; and distinguished between arteries and veins. He believed that the arteries were full of air and that they carried the “animal spirit”; appears to have almost discovered the circulation of the blood; and carried […]

Gerard van Swieten and his reforms

A massive statue in Vienna shows the empress Maria Theresia, imperial in bronze as she had been in life, surrounded by her generals and by an ennobled Dutch physician, the Baron Gerard van Swieten. She had recruited him from the medical department of the great Herman Boerhaave in Leiden, and he had come to Vienna […]

The philosopher’s dementia

To be the world’s greatest philosopher in the prime of life is no guarantee against developing the ravages of dementia in old age. This is what happened to Immanuel Kant, a little man scarcely five feet tall followed by a devoted servant with an umbrella, who would take his daily walk at so regular an […]