• Surgeons & Surgical Kits

    There’s always a scene in any movie or television show depicting a surgical operation: a nurse or assistant clad in scrubs, enters the room pushing a cart. On the cart lies several delicate instruments, their hard steel glistening under the harsh lights of the theatre. None of the instruments touch each other, and they are… Continue Reading

  • Dieting Deafness Away

    I’m sure some of you have heard of London-based undertaker William Banting (1797-1878), who was the first to popularize a low-carb diet that formed the basis of modern-day diets (think Atkins). Banting was an upper middle-class funeral director whose family held the Royal Warrant for burials for five generations, until 1928; George III, George IV,… Continue Reading

  • 19th Century Indian Women in U.S. Medical School Part II

    “It is not more difficult to prove that Asiastic women have made good as Christian physicians. In India we point to Dr. Karmarkar and Dr. Joshi…”[1] Since my original posting on three Indian women who attended the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, I’ve gotten several inquiries for more information on their stories. There’s plenty of… Continue Reading

  • Ear-picks to Q-tips

    Cotton-wool has long been a staple in households as well as in the aural surgeon’s tool kit. For ear ailments, cotton was used in all sorts of ways: soaked in olive oil and inserted into the ear, trimmed and soaked in medicaments to cover a perforated eardrum, and even inserted between rubber to serve as… Continue Reading

  • Elephant Clocks & Sultans of Science

    “How many centuries did the Islamic Golden Age last?” a student asked me, thrusting his worksheet in front of me, anxious for me to answer his question. “6, 8, 9, or 10?” “Uh…9? No. . Wait…” I answered, flustered because I can’t calculate in my head—I knew it lasted from the 8th to 13th centuries,… Continue Reading

  • An Experiment in Chloroform

    Tinnitus. A ringing, buzzing, singing, clicking, roaring, annoying sound. It can get so loud that every other sound in the vicinity is drowned out. It can last a few minutes, or hours, or even years. It can be divine retribution, the “Curse of Titus,” after an insect flew into Titus’ nose and picked his brain… Continue Reading

  • Blowena: A Sideline Cure for Deafness

    During the early twentieth century, a man by the name of George P. Way set up his “Artificial Ear Drum Company” in Detroit, Michigan. The company advertised patented eardrums that Way boasted could restore hearing loss even after twenty-five years. Tiny and invisible, these eardrums increased amplification while providing the wearer immense comfort, as an… Continue Reading

  • Syphilitic Invasions of the Ear

    The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has a wonderful post on Georgian prostitution and syphilis, which inspired me to dig up my research notebooks and uncover what nineteenth-century aurists wrote about syphilis and deafness. Syphilis is a fascinating topic. In nineteenth-century London, people were quite aware of the gruesome and devastating aspects of the disease. The memoirs of… Continue Reading