Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Opium

  • Surgery, gynecology, obstetrics, and pain

    Jayant RadhakrishnanChicago, Illinois, United States Pain caused by surgical interventions is incorrectly considered an unimportant, self-limiting inconvenience. “Let them scream—it is a relief of nature,” said Benjamin Winslow Dudley, a professor of anatomy, surgery and medicine at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky from 1817 to 1850. If Dudley’s unanesthetized patients squirmed during an operation, he would…

  • Opium and its derivatives

    Humans have taken psychotropic drugs since time immemorial, for pleasure and for pain. Opium was used by the Sumerians during the Neolithic era and mentioned in the Egyptian Papyrus Ebers and in ancient Chinese manuscripts. It was prescribed by the Greek and Roman physicians, by Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Pliny, Celsus, and Galen. The Roman emperor Marcus…

  • Going berserk

    Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Berserk: frenzied, furiously, or madly violent. – Oxford English Dictionary   Imaginative drawing of a berserker in a fur loincloth. From Den Skandinavska Nordens Historia (The Scandinavian North’s History) by Gustaf Henrik Mellin, published 1850. The British Library on Flickr via Norwegian Wikipedia. No known copyright restrictions. The word berserkr…

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s bondage of opium

    JMS PearceHull, England, United Kingdom His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid’s cupWith the first draught intoxicates apace,A quintessential laudanum or ‘black drop,’This makes one drunk at once, … — Byron’s Don Juan (1823) The opium or breadseed poppy (Papaver somniferum) was native to Turkey and was known to ancient Assyrian herbalists. Theophrastus described it in the…

  • The Pearl of the Orient: the persistence of Dr. Wu Lien-teh

    Ku Ezriq Raif bin Ku Besry Perlis, Malaysia   Dr. Wu Lien-teh 1935. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain. The work of Wu Lien-teh in controlling the 1910 Manchurian Plague has been celebrated as “a milestone in the systematic practice of epidemiological principles in disease control.” The cloth face mask he developed, “the principal means of personal protection”1…

  • A very Victorian drug

    Anita CookeNew Brunswick, Canada 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 a coma with an empty bottle of laudanum by her side. Despite efforts from doctors, she died a few hours later.…

  • Pain management

    Andrew Yim Hamden, Connecticut   Clear glass bottle containing ‘Papine’ brand liquid (opium and morphine hydrochloride). Science Museum Group Collection. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Once a month, Ada tells me about her pain and then I write a script for oxycodone. When Ada tires of my Spanish or I of her English, we use a phone…

  • Hector Berlioz: from medical school to music conservatory

    Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Portrait of Hector Berlioz. Gustave Courbet. 1850. Musée d’Orsay. Via Wikimedia Louis-Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) was born in La Côte-Saint-André, France. His father was a well-known physician in his hometown in the French Alps and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. At the age of eighteen, Hector…

  • Heinrich Heine and the mattress tomb

    Nicolás Roberto Robles Badajoz, Spain Harry Heine was born in Bolkerstrasse, Düsseldorf, Germany. He jokingly described himself as the “first man of the century,” claiming that he had been born on New Year’s Eve 1800. Researchers have discovered, however, that December 13, 1797, is most likely the date of his birth. The oldest of four children,…

  • The illness of Tom Wedgwood: A tragic episode in a family saga

    John Hayman Melbourne, Australia Figure 1. Tom Wedgwood, from the frontispiece of Tom Wedgwood, the First Photographer, by R.B. Litchfield (1903). The inscription reads: “From a chalk drawing belonging to Miss Wedgwood, of Leith Hill Place. Artist unknown.” Print in public domain. Tom Wedgwood (1771-1805) was born into the famous pottery dynasty as the third…