Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Vaccine

  • Sir Norman Gregg and the German measles

    Sir Norman Gregg. From “Rashes to Research: Scientists and Parents Confront the 1964 Rubella Epidemic.” Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Museum and Archives via US National Library of Medicine. Fair use. Sir Norman Gregg was an Australian eye doctor who in 1941 noticed that some mothers suffering from rubella during pregnancy had babies with severe eye…

  • “Killed By Vaccination”: the enduring currency of a nineteenth century illogic

    Saty Satya-MurtiSanta Maria, California, United States Vaccine misinformation and anti-vaccination conspiracy theories are not new but have acquired a combative energy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly all the arguments now raised against vaccination were known in the late nineteenth-century, and the vaccine objectors’ rhetoric shows striking similarities to that in use today. Smallpox vaccine opponents:…

  • Milwaukee’s unlikely public health advocate

    Lea DacyRochester, MN, United States The story of my mother’s possible childhood episode of pertussis (also known as whooping cough) has lived on in family lore because of its link with a notorious legendary figure in Milwaukee history. One Sunday afternoon, Helen Cromell (she later changed it to Cromwell), or “Dirty Helen” as she is…

  • The other Timothy Leary

    Saty Satya-MurtiSanta Maria, California, United States Most people know the name of Timothy Leary as an American counterculture guru and psychologist who had a massive following in the mid-twentieth century. He invoked the names of Gandhi, Jesus, and Socrates as his martyred models; was associated with Aldous Huxley, John Lennon, and Jack Kerouac; and fissioned…

  • Doubled edged shield

    Adil Menon Cleveland, Ohio, United States Working my way through a biography of pioneering vaccine developer Maurice Hilleman titled Vaccinated, I was struck by how often the researchers of his era, such as Jonas Salk, tested their vaccines both on their own children as well as on children with cognitive challenges. If indeed the latter were…

  • Hope quarantined

    Prasad Iyer Singapore   Poet’s statement: This fictional poem expresses the feelings of a migrant separated from his family during the COVID pandemic.   Photo by Logan Fisher on Unsplash      Quarantine forceth divorced souls  Distanced families and broken wholes  Shards of thoughts, impaling my core  Locked down borders’ hearts a sore  Shallow slumber,…

  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and smallpox

    JMS Pearce Hull, England   Fig 1. A painting of Mary Wortley Montagu by Jonathan Richardson the Younger. Via Wikimedia. There are few examples of people with no medical training who independently make significant advances in medical practice. One such person was the elegant, aristocratic Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762)—daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, first Duke…

  • The Schoolhouse Lab

    Edward McSweeganKingston, Rhode Island, United States “Black measles” was a common name for spotted fever, which regularly killed people in the western United States. Symptoms included a spotty rash on the extremities, fever, chills, headache, and photophobia. No one knew what caused it. The first recorded case in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley was in 1873.1 Twenty-three…

  • A Cold War vaccine: Albert Sabin, Russia, and the oral polio vaccine

    James L. FranklinChicago, Illinois, United States In the midst of the 2020 Covid–19 pandemic, when international scientific cooperation seems to be the order of the day, it is heartening to recall that during the height of Cold War tensions between the USSR and the United States, collaboration between an American virologist and his Russian counterparts…

  • How a small town kept smallpox small

    Annabelle SlingerlandLeiden, the Netherlands To make a mountain out of a molehill is a vice, but to keep the mole underground is a virtue. The little town of Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands was not accustomed to seeing mountains, but when a molehill first came into sight, it promptly flattened it into the…