Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Winter 2023

  • Spoonerisms

    JMS PearceHull, England The name of the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), warden of New College Oxford 1903–24, is preserved, some would say hallowed, for his involuntary invention of a verbal curiosity. Many found it amusing and the eponym Spoonerism came into colloquial use in Oxford from about 1885. Spoonerisms are the accidental transpositions of…

  • Can headless martyrs really walk? The belief in cephalophores in the Middle Ages

    Andrew Wodrich Washington, DC   Saint Denis of Paris holding his severed head. Mid-15th century depiction from an illuminated prayer book (Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 5, fol. 35v, 84.ML.723.35v). The halos surrounding his decapitated head as well as the stump of his neck suggest that the soul and saintliness of St. Denis remain in…

  • Painter Milene Pavlović Barili (1909–1945)

    Mirjana Stojkovic-Ivkovic Belgrade, Serbia   Milena Pavlović Barili was one of the most avant-garde and interesting personalities of the world art scene in the first half of the twentieth century. Suffering was inextricably linked to her life. Through suffering, pain, and dreams colored with melancholy, she experienced her own existence and created in solitude. Loneliness,…

  • Ruggero Oddi: Brilliant physician and victim of gaslighting by the Congo Free State

    Eli Ehrenpreis Skokie, Illinois, United States   Ruggero Oddi in 1900 during his post as acting director of the Physiological Institute of Genoa. Referenced in Alexander Rollett Letter Edition, L.2629.  When Ruggero Oddi (1864–1913) was a medical student at the University of Bologna, he performed studies detailing the physiology of the biliary sphincter. This work…

  • A brief history of ulcerative colitis

    Parnita Kesar South Carolina, United States   Anatomy of the large intestine in ancient Chinese medicine, 1537. Wellcome Collection. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis have been documented since the eighteenth century. From 1745, there is evidence that Prince Charles, the Young Pretender to the English crown, had symptoms consistent with the condition we now know…

  • Abraham de Balmes ben Meir, Jewish Italian physician and polymath

    Avi Ohry Tel Aviv, Israel   Abraham de Balmes ben Meir (c. 1460–1523) was a Jewish physician and polymath from the baroque Italian city of Lecce in the south of Italy, where his grandfather had served as personal physician to King Ferdinand I of Naples. He studied medicine in Naples but left in 1510 when…

  • King Wamba’s poisoning with cytisine

    Nicolas Roberto Robles Badajoz, Spain   Figure 1. Wamba Renouncing the Crown. Juan Antonio de Ribera, oil on canvas, 1819. Museo del Prado. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. In AD 409, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Suevi and the Vandals (of Germanic stock) and the Alans (of Asian origin). The Visigoths came next. They…

  • Conflict about the clitoris: Colombo versus Fallopio

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”– Oscar Wilde The clitoris, a female genital structure anatomically homologous to the penis, was known to the ancients. In 540 BC, the Greek Hipponax made one of the earliest references to it. It was not mentioned by Hippocrates,1 but Arabic, Persian, and Roman writers…

  • Books, bangles, and bravado

    Jill Kar New Delhi, India   Figure 1. Anandi Gopal Joshi (March 31, 1865 – February 26, 1887). Via Wikimedia. Public domain. Anandibai Joshee (Anandi) set sail from India at the age of eighteen. Bartering her bangles for books, she traded convention for an education, which was considered shameful in nineteenth-century India.1 In doing so,…

  • A time to live and a time to die

    Amera Hassan Minneapolis, Minnesota   Photo by Gaspar Zaldo on Pexels. “Well to be honest, doc, I don’t quite care whether I do live or die.” He said it so nonchalantly and he was smiling too, a crow-footed wrinkle on either side of his eyes. When this patient was first admitted to the floor, he…