Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Vignettes

  • Eugène J. Woillez (1811–1882)

    Eugène Woillez was born in the town of Montreuil sur Mer, near Calais, in 1811, one year before Napoleon committed the colossal error of invading Russia. As a young man, Woillez studied the sciences and arts, and spent his leisure painting with watercolors, playing musical instruments, and dabbling in lithography under the pseudonym Ozelli (his…

  • Nonsense poetry

    Avi OhryTel Aviv, Israel Recently, I read the Israeli professor Rony Reich’s translation of German nonsense poetry (Deutsche Unsinnpoesie), and among them, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Lügenmärchen (Lying Fairy Tales). I translate from the Hebrew:  …Three wished to catch a hare,On crutches they came—a team.One was deaf,The second blind, the third mute.And the fourth could…

  • Ming the clam: Methodical measurement of the maturity of the Methuselah of mollusks

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Clams don’t carry birth certificates.”– Samantha Larson, National Geographic1 The maximum human lifespan is about 120 years, and research continues to find ways to increase that maximum. Knowing the maximum lifespan of other species and how they manage to achieve it may be of value. Zoologists have two strict criteria when defining…

  • Living behind a mask (Is it being one’s self?)

    Lawrence ClimoLincoln, Massachusetts, United States In my retirement in Lincoln, I have found myself looking back at life. Those memories brought me smiles, but that is not what I want to share now. It is the memories that did not bring smiles. It is the memories of embarrassment and remorse after regretful behavior. And because…

  • From gout to rheumatoid arthritis

    Although the English physician William Musgrave described the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in his 1715 publication De Arthritide Symptomatica, credit is usually given to the twenty-year-old French physician Augustin Jacob Landré-Beauvais (1772–1840). Working at the Saltpêtrière in Paris, he described a disease somewhat different from gout or degenerative joint disease. It affected the poor more…

  • Errare humanum est

    Bob ScottScotland “Erring is human; not to, animal”– Robert Frost, The White-tailed Hornet Why is it so difficult to face up to our shortcomings? It is more than 300 years since Alexander Pope wrote1 that a defining characteristic of humankind was to err, while granting forgiveness was at the discretion of a god. Robert Frost’s…

  • Passing sentence 

    Anthony PapagiannisThessaloniki, Greece  The man facing me across the desk is outwardly calm. He gives an innocent enough history of a vague pain in his back which eventually led his family physician to send him for a chest film. Something did not look right, and a computed lung scan followed. This was the reason for…

  • Book review: Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “A nation that produced Goethe could not possibly go to the bad.”– Sigmund Freud, 1930 In March 1938, Austria became part of the Greater German Reich. Nazi antisemitism and the exclusion of Jews from society began at once. Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the creator of psychoanalysis, could no longer deny what was…

  • The discovery of urea and the end of vitalism

    Mostafa ElbabaDoha, Qatar In history, ancient chemistry is known as “alchemy.” It is different than modern chemistry since it was mixed with philosophy and pseudoscience, although it is considered a protoscience. Alchemy failed to explain the nature of matter and its transformations. However, by experimentation and recording the results, alchemists set the stage for modern…

  • Additional French surgeons

    By the close of the fourteenth century, France emerged as the preeminent center of European surgical practice. Its early pioneers included Theodoric Borgognoni of Lucca (1205–1296), who played a pivotal role in elevating surgery from a craft to a respected medical discipline; Guido Lanfranc of Milan (1250–1315), who further refined surgical techniques; and Henri de…