• Monday Series: Inquest into a Surgical Procedure IV

    As per guidelines for coroner’s inquests, the jury was to view the body and judge their verdict on their observations as well as on the witness depositions and postmortem report. This raises specific questions about the value of medical witnessing, which Thomas Wakley argued was essential for a proper investigation. Yet the cause of death… Continue Reading

  • William Wright & Miss Hannah Thatcher

    William Wright (1773-1860), whose professional career began in Bristol, England in 1796, moved to London and acquired a large practice in aural surgery that included the Duke of Wellington and other members of the nobility as patients. Eventually he became one of John Harrison Curtis’ fiercest and most outspoken rivals, rallying against the prevalence of… Continue Reading

  • Monday Series: An Inquest into a Surgical Procedure II

    Charles Spradbrow also witnessed Joseph Hall in perfectly good health on Saturday June 22, having had seen him at Turnbull’s ten or twelve times on occasion to be treated for deafness, and was “always very anxious to use the instrument.” Several other individuals—as many as thirty, according to some reports—were also at Turnbull’s that Saturday,… Continue Reading

  • A Bead and a Thwack

    Surgeon John Abernethy (1764-1831), in his Lectures on Operative Surgery (reprinted in The Lancet vol.8 (1827), 449): Now I remember, not a very great many years ago, that there were paragraphs put into the newspapers, about a child having got something into its ear, which could not be got out. The poor child was in great… Continue Reading

  • French Perspectives on Eustachian Tube Catheterization

    Earlier I wrote about Sir Astley Cooper and his procedure of tympanic membrane perforation as a remedy for deafness. While in Britain there wasn’t tremendous grounds being made in aural surgery, the situation was quite different in France, as surgeons made more advancements in Eustachian tube catheterization as a remedy than their British counterparts.  By the… Continue Reading

  • The Pretensions of Dr. Turnbull

    I wrote about Dr. Alexander Turnbull (c. 1794-1881) in a previous post discussing his advertisements for deafness, particularly the use of veratria as a catch-all cure. Even though nearly all medical practitioners of the nineteenth century advertised in one form or another, Turnbull was especially prolific in advertising his cures and remedies, and often supplemented… Continue Reading

  • 61 Questions

    In Advice to the Deaf: The Present State of Aural Surgery (1840), John Harrison Curtis addressed to deaf individuals the importance of seeking out an aurist to receive a through examination of the ear. Acknowledging that some of his distant patients might be unable to find a skilled aurist in the countryside, Curtis describes how he put… Continue Reading

  • Histories of Deaf Histories

    One of the agendas of my dissertation is to build a steady bridge between scholarship from the history of medicine and scholarship from Deaf and Disability Studies. Granted, as part of my education at IHPST, my research has been lopsided, for I’ve concentrated more on the history of medicine and technologies (especially relating to medical… Continue Reading

  • The Surgeon’s Plan: Tympanic Membrane Perforation

    By the nineteenth century, Sir Astley Paston Cooper (1768-1841), surgeon to Guy’s Hospital, outlined his observation that puncture of the tympanic membrane could be effective in draining out collections of fluid in the middle ear, and hence, improve a particular type of deafness. Cooper’s work was inspired in part by his friend Sir Everard Home… Continue Reading

  • The Catheter

    Valsalva’s De aure remained one of the standard treatises on the ear and the Valsalva maneuver gained popularity among physicians and surgeons for diagnosing sources of blockages in the ear. The maneuver, however, contained little therapeutic benefits for cases in which there weren’t blockages in the tube or associated parts of the ear; moreover, it… Continue Reading

  • A Brief History of the Eustachian Tube

    The Eustachian tube is a passageway that lies between the middle ear and the pharynx, the upper part of the mouth located just below the top of the nose. One of the primary functions of the tube is to equalize ear pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere; most of the time the tube… Continue Reading