Tag Archives: Vignettes

The village surgeon

This painting, titled Village Surgeon, is rich in layers and details. In the center of the image the surgeon, quite likely a barber-surgeon, scrapes carefully at the skin of his patient. In the background, a workbench is covered in instruments, two other figures examine potential remedies, a broom is knocked over as if to indicate […]

Moral lessons through pictures

These images, taken from a series called Moral lessons through pictures of good and evil, are meant to communicate morality in traditional Japanese society. Each lesson is made up of a pair of opposing images, one representing the ideal and the other the less than ideal. In one image shown here, a doctor is seen […]

Is history good for you? Pros and cons

Pro “ . . . a page of history is worth a volume of logic.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana “A people without history is like wind on the buffalo grass.” – Sioux proverb “[History is] a pact between the dead, […]

Informed consent

Charles H. Halsted Davis, California, USA   Autopsy at the Hôtel-Dieu (1876) by Henri Gervex Outlined by the glimmer of eastern sun, the head nurse says: “One of your patients passed around four. His body has been sent to the hospital morgue.” You are the intern, first up on the ward to see all the patients […]

Tales out of medical school

Charles H. Halsted Davis, California, USA   University of Rochester School of Medicine, 1958 In first-year anatomy class, I shared a rectangular metal table with three other twenty-one-year-old men and our assigned corpse, a blank-eyed, obese, and lifeless white seventyish woman. Half of my classmates were former Eastern prep school boys, the others mostly Jewish […]

Anatomy plates: more shocking than useful

Jacques Fabien Gautier D’Agoty (1716–1785) was born in Marseilles and learned color printing in Frankfurt while working for Jacob Christoph Le Blond, the man who had invented this process. Perhaps anticipating his later conduct, D’Agoty claimed after Le Blond’s death to have made this invention himself. Moving to Paris in 1736, he had the idea […]

Death from uremia

“Your grandmother is doomed,” [the doctor] said to me. “It is a stroke brought on by uremia. In itself, uremia is not necessarily fatal, but this case seems to me hopeless. I need not tell you that I hope I am mistaken.” [Then] there was a moment when the uremic trouble affected her eyes. For […]

Beginnings of bedside teaching in Padua: Montanus

      “Medical historians seem to agree that the first teacher of medicine to instruct his students at the bedside was Giovanni Batista de Monte (1498-1552), better known by his Latin name of Montanus. In 1543 Montanus was appointed to the Chair of Medicine at the University of Padua, a state institution of the […]

Jules Dejerine

Jules Dejerine originated in Savoy and grew up in the then provincial atmosphere of Geneva, where his father was a carriage proprietor… Young Dejerine had a powerful physique. At the Lycée Calvin he was better known for his swimming and boxing then for his devotion to study…. Nevertheless, he did well in school…left for Paris […]

Multiple [disseminated] sclerosis

  “Disseminated sclerosis was described pathologically in the 1830s by Cruveilhier in Paris and Carswell in London, but clinical accounts were sketchy. It was known only to the cognoscenti and regarded as a great rarity. Charcot was the first to diagnose the disease during life, and from 1860 onwards Charcot and Vulpian, and later Charcot […]