The Beginning of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic – and One Doctor’s Search for a Cure

It was unparalleled, this confluence of public health, politics, clinical medicine, and public anxiety. The following is an excerpt from The Impatient Dr. Lange by Dr. Seema Yasmin. Before the living dead roamed the hospital, the sharp angles of their bones poking through paper-thin bed sheets and diaphanous nightgowns, there was one patient, a harbinger of what[…]

Dorothea Dix and Cornelia Hancock: Two Views of Civil War Nursing

Thousands of women volunteered as nurses during the Civil War. On April 14, 1861, Fort Sumter fell—the beginning of four years of brutal war.  President Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 militia volunteers to put down what he described as a state of insurrection. The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of men enlisted. But Lincoln[…]

The Evolution of Nursing in the 19th Century

Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from the beginning. As caretakers of children, family and community, it was natural that women were the nurses, the caregivers, as human society evolved. Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from[…]

Printing the Body: Anatomical Illustration in the Early Modern Period

For over 500 years, scientific and artistic collaborations have enhanced and promoted medical knowledge. Introduction From the early modern period, as perceptions of the internal and external workings of the body developed, the methods of depicting the body also advanced. But it was not until the 1750s that anatomical art truly began to flourish. The number[…]

Fever in the Tropics: David Livingstone and Ideas of Causes

Contrasting nineteenth-century ideas (including Livingstone’s own) about fever with modern ideas about the causes and appropriate treatment for fever. By Christopher Lawrence Introduction Livingstone’s writings recurrently return to the problem of fever as the greatest threat to the health of travellers in Africa. Livingstone died shortly before modern germ theory was developed and well before[…]

David Livingstone’s Medical Education

A detailed description of Livingstone’s medical education and an overview of how his education affected his recording strategies in Africa. By Christopher Lawrence Introduction As is well known, Livingstone was born into a poor, deeply religious family at Blantyre, near Glasgow, Scotland. After rudimentary schooling he worked in the town’s cotton mill. What set him[…]

The Prince of Quacks (and How He Captivated London)

James Graham, founder of the Temple of Health, benefitted from his undeniable flair for showmanship and his talent for leaping on trends. Let me set the scene: In late eighteenth-century England, ladies and gentlemen flocked to exhibitions of solar microscopes. The miniature world of mites and polyps was blown up and cast on the wall like[…]

Crime and Punishment in Ancient Surgery: An Examination of Assyrian and Egyptian Physicians

The history of surgery is a fascinating collection of knowledge from various civilizations dating back up to four thousand years. By Amana Ali and Johna SD Abstract The history of physicians’ roles in ancient Babylonia and Egypt has been studied and documented extensively, however, surgeons’ roles in these societies are somewhat less understood. Ancient Assyrian/Babylonian[…]

The Historical Development of Modern Surgery in America

Reviewing the great surgical advances in the United States in the last century. By Dr. Yeu-Tsu Margaret LeeGeneral Surgeon and Surgical Oncologist Abstract Surgeons use operative procedure to save life and to treat patient’s disease. Advances are made with new operations and/or designing and modification of surgical instrument. This paper reviews the great surgical advances[…]

The Trial of Madame Restell (Ann Lohman) for Abortion in New York, 1841

The termination of Restell’s conviction involving Purdy kept her out of prison and allowed her to continue to perform abortions in New York. In the spring of 1841, abortionist Ann Lohman, called Madame Restell, was convicted for crimes against one of her abortion clients, Maria Purdy. In a deathbed confession, Purdy admitted that she had received an abortion provided[…]

Unearthing the Health of Victorian London

What bones tell us about the lives and deaths of the dead. In 2011, AOC Archaeology completed an archaeological excavation at St John’s Primary School, Peel Grove, in Bethnal Green, London, ahead of the construction of a new nursery school. The site was a former burial ground privately run as a commercial business by pawnbroker[…]

Health, Hygiene, and the Rise of ‘Mother Gin’ in Georgian Britain

Investigating health and hygiene in 18th century Britain, against a backdrop of industrialization and the subsequent over-crowding in the cities. Medical knowledge was very basic during the this period. While there were gradual improvements in healthcare, for many people even minor diseases could prove fatal. Living Conditions The growth of cities and towns during the[…]

Visible Proofs: A History of Forensic Medicine

Forensic medicine, also called “medical jurisprudence” or “legal medicine,” emerged in the 1600s. The Rise of Forensics Overview As European nation-states and their judicial systems developed, physicians and surgeons participated more frequently in legal proceedings. By the late 1700s, medical jurisprudence had become a standard subject in the medical curriculum. In the early 1800s, Parisian[…]

When Television Was a Medical Device

Retracing the history of media technologies in the practice of medicine. Reba Benschoter readied herself to speak before the crowd of luminaries from industry, academia, and government who had gathered to talk about the transformative potential of new media in medicine. Among those assembled at the New York Academy of Sciences that day in 1966[…]

David Livingstone and Victorian Medicine

Analyzing the evolving state of British health in the nineteenth century and how Livingstone’s perceptions of this health influenced his understanding of Africa and his writings. By Christopher Lawrence British Health in the 19th Century The practice and understanding of medicine profoundly changed during the years of Livingstone’s life (1813-1873). These changes grew out of[…]

Curandero: Peruvian Shamans and Nature’s Medicine Cabinet

In Peru, the challenge of providing health care to the country’s citizens has spurred interest in alternative medicines that draw on cultural traditions. By Jane Palmer Under the clear, moonlit sky of Friday, July 13, 2018, Elide Sanchez Rivera steps into her own star—a large, white symbol chalked into the dusty ground. With the sound[…]

Medicine in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Islamic World

In the 17th century, early modern European medical theory had an impact upon Islamic medicine through the writings of the Paracelsians. As the Islamic world became increasingly fragmented, the patronage and accompanying prestige and security enjoyed by the leading physicians declined. Spain was lost, European crusaders made repeated invasions into the central lands, and in[…]

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: Hero, Humanitarian, and Teacher

She used her skills as a teacher to become not only the first American female physician but also its first female professor of medicine. To celebrate Women’s History Month, the television quiz show Jeopardy, recently posted a category related to female historical figures. The contestants, sharp, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, answered all the questions in that category, except for[…]

Camera Obscura: Accuracy and Elegance in Cheselden’s Osteographia (1733)

With its novel vignettes and its use of a camera obscura in the production of the plates, William Cheselden’s Osteographia, is recognized as a landmark in the history of anatomical illustration. Monique Kornell looks at its unique blend of accuracy and elegance. By Dr. Monique KornellIndependent Scholar of Anatomical Illustration This article, Camera Obscura: Accuracy[…]

Dealing with ‘the Devil’ in Medieval and Early Modern European Medicine

During the devil’s last apogee in early modern Europe, demonic afflictions were taken seriously by both priests and physicians. Thirty children in Amsterdam began to show signs of a disturbing affliction in the winter of 1566. The symptoms would strike without warning: the children would at first be seized by a violent frenzy, then fall[…]

Jonas Salk and the Eradication of Polio

Even before the 1952 and 1953 outbreaks, labs had been worked diligently to find a cure for Polio. By Dr. Atif KukaswadiaEpidemiologist Poliomyelitis is an infectious viral disease. It enters through the mouth and is usually spread by contaminated drinking water or food. The virus passes through the stomach and then replicates in the lining[…]

Ancient Chinese Alchemy

Chinese alchemists developed methods for manipulating minerals and altering the state of substances. Introduction Most of us are familiar with parts of the history of alchemy; the stories of the Philosopher’s Stone and turning base metal into gold have diffused into mainstream films and books. These tales evoke visions of grey bearded men at the royal court[…]

Caterina Sforza: Fearless Regent and Scientist of 15th-Century Italy

Sforza was an early scientist who experimented with chemistry and medicine. By Amy Lifson Caterina Sforza, the infamous fifteenth-century Italian regent of Forlì and Imola, was also an early scientist who experimented with chemistry and medicine. On the cover of Meredith K. Ray’s NEH-supported Daughters of Alchemy, a portrait of her, reproduced and seen above,[…]