Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Richard de Grijs

  • The forgotten menace of long naval patrols

    Richard de GrijsSydney, Australia Heavy manual labor was part and parcel of the daily routine on eighteenth-century sailing ships. Although simple mechanical aids such as capstans (winches), blocks, and pulleys reduced some of the burden, shipboard life relied largely on enormous physical strain and exertion. Lifting heavy casks, or tubs of seawater for washing the…

  • The grim horrors of the orlop deck

    Richard de GrijsSydney, Australia The often awe-inspiring works of art immortalizing historic naval battles usually belie the harsh reality of war. Amidst clouds of billowing, black smoke and the deafening roar of cannon fire, sailors faced the real danger of life-threatening injuries. Injured sailors were carried, dragged, or stretchered to the surgeon’s “cockpit,” a dimly…

  • “Filth so foul and stench so offensive as not to be imagined”

    Richard de GrijsSydney, Australia … during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea-sickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water,…

  • Of vermicide and vermifuge: A history of intestinal parasites at sea

    Richard de GrijsSydney, Australia When the UK’s National Archives launched the Surgeons at Sea project,1 many media outlets focused on one outlandish claim from the curators’ summary of highlights. In June 1825, twelve-year-old Ellen McCarthy was on board the Elizabeth from Cork (Ireland) to Quebec (Canada) when the ship’s surgeon reported that she Complained yesterday…

  • The ships’ surgeons’ toxic toolkit

    Richard de Grijs Sydney, Australia   Mercury ointment applied to a patient’s legs. Paracelsus, Wundartzeney die Frantzosen genannt, I; Frankfurt, 1562. Out of copyright. During the “Age of Sail,” months-long voyages gave rise to unique health concerns.1,2 Moreover, ships’ surgeons frequently encountered diseases brought upon uninhibited sailors through their own “adventurous” behavior. Following their arrival at…

  • Temporary insanity in tropical waters

    Richard de Grijs Sydney, Australia   Frontispiece to the second edition (1639) of John Woodall’s The Surgion’s Mate, promising to outline “[t]he cures of the Scurvey [sic] … and of the Calenture.” Line engraving by George Glover. Wellcome Collection. So, by a calenture misled, The mariner with rapture sees, On the smooth ocean’s azure bed,…

  • “All hands to dance and skylark!” – Shipboard dancing in the British Navy

    Richard de GrijsSydney, Australia “We were all hearty seamen, no cold did we fear;And we have from all sickness entirely kept clear;Thanks be to the Captain he has proved so good;Amongst all the Islands to give us fresh food.”1,2– William Perry, surgeon’s mate on H.M.S. Resolution, 1775 Lieutenant James Cook (1728–1779) is known as a…

  • “Plague of the Sea, and the Spoyle of Mariners”—A brief history of fermented cabbage as antiscorbutic

    Richard de Grijs Sydney, Australia   Germans eating sauerkraut. Hand-colored etching by James Gillray (1756–1815), published 7 May 1803. (© National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG D12809; CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) “. . . those affected have skin as black as ink, ulcers, difficult respiration, rictus of the limbs, teeth falling out and, perhaps most revolting of…

  • Christopher Wren and blood circulation

    Richard de GrijsSydney, AustraliaDaniel VuillerminBeijing, China “A young man of marvellous gifts who, when not yet sixteen years of age, advanced astronomy, gnomonics, statics, and mechanics by his distinguished discoveries, and from then on continues to advance these sciences. And truly he is the kind of man from whom I can shortly expect great things.”…

  • Longitudinal lunacy: Science and madness in the eighteenth century

    Richard de Grijs Sydney, Australia Daniel Vuillermin Beijing, China   Interior of Bethlem Royal Hospital, from A Rake’s Progress by William Hogarth. The poor soul in the background is trying to solve the longitude problem. “A couple of young Non conformist preachers from Worksop in the North of Derbyshire came thither to have my approbation…