• A Patient Interaction

    An aurist’s assertion of authority could at times be intimidating for deaf patients. An anecdote by a Reverend J. Richard about his “deaf and nervous friend” best demonstrates this intimidation. The friend was too timid to oppose or contradict an opponent, and said “yes” to everything or “no” everything, answering questions as he “conjectured the… Continue Reading

  • A Wartime Medical Dispenser

    The Napoleonic Wars brought John Harrison Curtis’ studies to a standstill, as he became one of thousands of young men conscripted to fight against Napoleonic advances towards Britain. With his medical learning in hand, Curtis enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1808, to obtain his qualifications as surgeon and extend his medical skills. Since 1745,… Continue Reading

  • Diagnostic Instruments & Surgical Authority

    On 29 October 1839 the Bankruptcy Register listed John Harrison Curtis as a “bookseller.” By 1841, Curtis lost his patrons and his career was pretty much in shambles and his Dispensary was sold to the aurist William Harvey. The invention of the cephaloscope and the publication of his treatise on the instrument were aimed as… Continue Reading

  • Acoustic Instruments

    I’ve pretty much been chained to my desk these days, struggling to write the most difficult chapter of my dissertation, which broadly focuses on the historiography of medical specialties and professionalization. The chapter also provides an analysis of how diagnostic instruments (and other medical technologies) served as a nexus for the crystallization of specialist medical… Continue Reading

  • A fulfilled career

    Twenty-five years have elapsed since I commenced this line of practice; and I have every reason to be satisfied with what I have accomplished in that period. I leave it to the profession to say what was the state of aural surgery before I commenced practice, and what had been done to increase our knowledge… Continue Reading

  • The difference between an aurist and a surgeon?

    “…quacks, and aurists, get reputation for syringing the ear, when surgeons lose it; not because the quack has more knowledge of his profession, but because he takes more pains than the surgeon.” -Unknown, c.1828/1829. (Yes, I’m still holed up in the British Library reading 19th century treatises on aural surgery)

  • Spot on?

    In fact, with one or two exceptions, “aurist,” in England, has been hitherto but another term for “quack.” –James Yearsley (1805-1869), 1839.

  • Dedications

    One of my favorite parts of experiencing a book–whether it’s a nineteenth century treatise, or a trashy beach novel–is reading the dedication page.  I always wonder how much time and effort the author puts into deciding who gets the honor of the dedication (and of course, thinking about who I will dedicate my dissertation to…) and am at times… Continue Reading

  • On Pretended and Itinerant Aurists

    As focused as I’ve been on John Harrison Curtis, my current research focus has branched out, exploring a seeming network of aurists that also practiced in London during Curtis’ time. William Wright (1773-1860), as I’ve mentioned previously, was one of Curtis’ contemporaries, and perhaps his most fierce and prominent competitor. Wright had a very long career–nearly 50… Continue Reading