Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Winter 2018

  • Cecil Rhodes: The man with a hole in his heart

    There must be few people in the world who can locate with confidence Northern or Southern Rhodesia on a map of Africa. Yet these countries still exist, only the names have changed. Nor would the man who founded them win a contemporary popularity contest. In fact, his statue at the University of Cape Town was…

  • George Stubbs—“Horse painter” and anatomist

    Nothing exemplifies more the French saying “on revient toujour a son premier amour” (one always returns to one’s first love) than the life of George Stubbs. Already at the age of eight he was sketching animal bones in his father’s tannery in Liverpool. Later, as a teenager, he was dissecting dogs and horses, then decided…

  • A treatment for “circular insanity”: Joseph Roth’s Radetzky March

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States Madness and decay of society permeate Joseph Roth’s brooding novel The Radetsky March (1932). One character, Herr von Taussig, experiences attacks of “circular insanity.”1 The recommended cure is an institution on Lake Constance, where Von Taussig receives treatment by “mundane and feather-brained physicians who prescribe ‘spiritual emotions,’ just as frivolously…

  • No laughing matter

    Shafiqah Samarasam Subang Jaya, Malaysia   Portrait of Robin Williams. Creative Commons. “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” These were the words of Robin Williams, the man whose own laughter was enough to make us laugh. In a world where tragedy occurs every day, his words helped us to…

  • Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

    Rayda JoomunMauritius Author Dedication “Thus grew the tale of Wonderland: / Thus slowly, one by one, / Its quaint events hammered out / And now the tale is done, / And home we steer, a merry crew, / Beneath the setting sun”¹ As a child, I got lost in the curious jargon and strange sequence of events in Alice’s Adventures…

  • Bob Edwards and the perils of publicity

    James Owen DrifeLeeds, United Kingdom The physiologist Robert Edwards began thinking about human in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in the 1950s and first suggested it in print in 1965. Thirteen years later Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby, was born in Oldham, United Kingdom.  Today that sequence of events seems logical, even inevitable, but it very…

  • The Brothers Grimm under the knife

    Valerie GribbenSan Francisco, California, United States Magic-infused fairytales and modern medicine are intertwined as closely as the curving double helix of DNA. Do you doubt this? Well, let us start by acknowledging that the word “magic” has to a large degree regrettably lost its luster. “Magic” these days conjures up images of clowns pulling quarters…

  • A change in mindset

    Asayya ImayaLondon, United Kingdom “This is witchcraft,” my father said with authority. I had questions that I dared not ask; my father was a formidable and austere character. The terror he had instilled in me as a child was still palpable, and I still feared him as an adult. I am not sure I liked…

  • The hypocrisy of the advice-giver

    Kathryn TaylorSan Francisco, California, United States I do not floss daily. And I have poor sleep hygiene—I am always starting into the blue-light, back-lit screen before I go to bed. My vegetable intake is so-so. But now, as a newly minted primary care physician, I find myself in a peculiar place—I have become the presenter…

  • Pitch dark

    Ochiche Ijeoma Lagos, Nigeria    Pitch dark before midnight I had observed many surgical operations  as a medical student so I knew what to expect. The rules about changing clothes and footwear, the strict hand washing routine, the complex method of putting on the aprons, gowns, and gloves had been drummed into my ears and…