Tag Archives: Summer 2018

Henrik Sjögren and his syndrome

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Fig. 1 Henrik Sjögren The esteemed novelist PD James remarked in a book review: “History reminds us of what we are in danger of losing. A glance over our shoulders into medical history may stimulate, challenge, even enhance our own methods and our thinking.“ Although the names of many […]

A fatal and mysterious illness

Michael D. Shulman Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States   In late 1972, a flurry of letters began to appear in the British medical journal The Lancet which captured the alarm, the bafflement, and the intense professional curiosity aroused by a mysterious new illness. The illness was unique to patients receiving hemodialysis, typically those who had been […]

Eating and drinking during the Renaissance

Lynn Dattler New York, New York, United States     La Merienda. Luis Egidio Melendez (1716-1780). The period of the Renaissance in Europe was a time of great upheavals, of changes in how people thought and acted, and after the return of Columbus’ sailors from America, in how and what they ate. For most people, bread […]

The philosopher’s dementia: Immanuel Kant

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 […]

The tooth pullers

Gerrit Van Honthorst, 1628, Louvre, Paris. Jan Victors, ca. 1650 M.d Bildenden Kunst, Leipzig. Jan Steen, ca. 1650 check, Mauritshuis, The Hague.  Gerrit Dou, 1630-35, Louvre, Paris. Having a tooth pulled in the days before the advent of modern anesthesia and dental techniques could turn out to be a pretty ghastly experience. There was a […]

Delicious death in Agatha Christie

Sylvia A. Pamboukian Moon Township, Pennsylvania, United States   Common Tansy, Niagara Botanical Garden, Niagara Falls, Canada.  Photograph by author. It is a truth rarely acknowledged that an Agatha Christie village is a Jane Austen village gone wrong. Village spinsters still talk scandal over cozied tea pots, and plump vicars still carve Sunday roast with ecclesiastical […]

Butterfly day

Marsal Sanches Bismarck, North Dakota, United States   In some cultures, black butterflies are considered omens of death. He did not believe that a black butterfly was an omen of death. It was just some old superstition he remembered hearing from his Brazilian babysitter many years before, sort of a South American banshee. Someone would […]

“The GBM in Room 9”: on the objectifying power of naming and diagnosing

Atara Messinger Toronto, Ontario, Canada   French literary theorist and philosopher Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003) I wheeled the patient through the double doors into the operating room. As I parked the hospital bed next to the operating table, I quickly glanced at the patient’s chart. NAME: ‘J.’ AGE: 28. HISTORY: Progressive headaches, visual changes, and right-sided […]

Jan Steen: quack doctors visit lovesick maidens

Like his contemporary Molière, the Dutchman Jan Steen makes fun of quack doctors, often shown in ridiculous costumes visiting young love-sick or pregnant women. In the Lovesick Maiden (Fig.1, Metropolitan Museum) the diagnosis is suggested by the painting of a Cupid above the door, the bed on the right, and the bed-warmer on the lower […]

Pietro Longhi: appearances are deceiving

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, United States   Pietro Longhi’s depictions of Venetian society delight the eye by his detailed renderings of elegant satin dresses, demure shoes, and fashionable wigs. But appearances can be deceiving. Though he lavishes attention on the attractive façade of his subjects, he is equally concerned with their actions. He invites the […]