Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Tuberculosis

  • Robert Klopstock: Kafka’s fellow patient, friend, and doctor

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “If I had known then what I know now, Franz would be sitting here talking to us.”– Robert Klopstock, M.D., to Kafka scholar Angel Flores, early 1940s Franz Kafka (1883–1924) was born to a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague. He got a law degree at his father’s insistence but worked as a…

  • Holden Caulfield’s coughing conundrum: A medical perspective

    Anthony GulottaBethesda, Maryland, United States J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye, captivates readers with the story of Holden Caulfield, a disillusioned teenager. Was Holden’s constant coughing due to pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), as he claims, or some other illness? His own words paint a bleak picture. He mentions being “dead tired,” harboring a…

  • Did Chopin die from tuberculosis?

    Philip LiebsonChicago, Illinois, United States Frederic Chopin, remembered for his brilliant piano works, suffered from a chronic illness leading to a short life of only thirty-nine years. Yet he lived longer than Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, or George Gershwin. Born in a suburb of Warsaw, he was sickly even as a youth and appeared on the…

  • Book review: The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Well, son, I’ll tell you:Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”– Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son” At the start of the twentieth century, Dr. Hermann Biggs, chief of the New York City Department of Health, declared that tuberculosis (TB) was a reportable communicable disease. The city would be able to count…

  • BCG: The vaccine that took thirteen years to develop

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”– Victor Hugo Tuberculosis of the lungs (“consumption”) was one of the two main causes of death (along with pneumonia) at the start of the twentieth century.1 In the US, pulmonary tuberculosis killed 194 persons per 100,000 in 1900.2 In one Missouri hospital, nearly 25% of patient deaths…

  • Sanitariums as cure for consumption

    The institutions variously called sanitariums (from sanare, “to cure”) or sanitariums (from sanitas, meaning “health”) became all the rage around 1850. They were especially popular with the upper classes, as exemplified in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain by the young Hans Castorp, who decides to spend a few days with a friend at a Swiss…

  • The climate cure: Treating tuberculosis in the nineteenth century

    Brendan PulsiferAtlanta, Georgia Tuberculosis pervaded nineteenth-century American life like no other disease. More commonly known as consumption at the time, it was responsible for one in five deaths, making it the deadliest pathogen for people across ages, genders, and classes. Doctors often described tuberculosis as the most dangerous illness in their clinical practice because of…

  • Christopher Wren’s contributions to medicine

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. Left: Sir Christopher Wren. From James Bissett’s Magnificent Guide, 1808. Wellcome Collection via Wikimedia. Public domain. Right: Blue plaque at Hampton Court Green. Photo by Edwardx on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0. An extraordinary natural philosopher and Renaissance man, Christopher Wren (1632–1723) (Fig 1) was primarily an astronomer and…

  • A historical review of Crohn’s disease

    Anagha BrahmajosyulaBangalore, Karnataka, India Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, may cause inflammation in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, with a predilection for the ileum. While much is known today about the underlying pathology of the disease, historically, this condition was thought to be a form…

  • Some Dickensian diagnoses

    JMS PearceHull, England What a gain it would have been to physic if one so keen to observe and facile to describe had devoted his powers to the medical art.– British Medical Journal obituary, 1870 A huge biographical literature relates the turbulent life of Charles Dickens (1812–1870) (Fig 1) from its humble, poverty-ridden beginnings to…