• 10 Extreme 19th Century “Cures” for Deafness

    The nineteenth-century introduced a tremendous number of treatments boasting cures for irremediable deafness. Some of these cures were advised by aurists (specialists of the ear); others were tested home remedies or marketed as proprietary nostrums. Below is a list of some of the most extreme measures that were once popular treatments: 1. MERCURY The use… Continue Reading

  • An Active Interest in Otology

    In September 1876, the first International Congress of Otology was held New York. The Congress was organized by aural surgeons Daniel Bennett St. John Roosa (1838-1908), Clarence J. Blake (1843-1919), Jakob Hermann Knapp (1832-1911), and J. Orne Greene. These surgeons were all members of the American Otological Society, which was formed in 1868.Urban Pritchard (1845-1925),… Continue Reading

  • Galvanism & Deafness

    Galvanism is a medical treatment that involves the application of electric currents to body tissues in order to stimulate the contraction of muscles. First experimented in the late eighteenth-century by Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) who investigated frog legs twitching once sparked by an electric current, galvanism was believed to be a miraculous application of scientific prowess… Continue Reading

  • Boastful Pretensions

    In 1908, V. Walbram Chapnnam wrote to John McKinna, secretary for the Metropolitan Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital on 64 Grafton St., London. In his correspondence, Chapnnam encloses a copy of a letter dated 6th April, from a person calling himself Herbert Clifton who styled himself as a “Aural Specialist.” The copy included an advertisement… Continue Reading

  • A Word, Aurist.

    The word—or rather, the identity of—“aurist” has an incomplete history. Even right now, as I typed the word, Microsoft Word automatically corrected it to “aorist,” as if questioning my word choice. A quick dictionary search turns up a definition of “an ear specialist” or even “former name for audiologist.” The former is true. The latter… Continue Reading

  • Popular Remedies for Deafness

    The aurist William Wright (1773-1860) published a journal in 1825, The Aurist. In the third volume, 31 May 1825, he prints the first of series of articles to be devoted to discussing the merits of some popular remedies advertised and recommended by aurists and “quacks” in London. Unfortunately, the third volume was the last one, but we… Continue Reading

  • James Yearsley (1805-1869)

    James Yearsley was an outspoken aurist who was known in mid-nineteenth century London for irritating other medical practitioners with his obnoxiousness. He’s a very interesting fellow to examine the field of aural surgery within the 1830s medical reform and march of progress movements in England–no wonder he’s become the subject of my last dissertation chapter.

  • 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

  • The Death of William Whitbread

    Despite the emerging popularity of Eustachian tube catheterization in France—particularly supported with Deleau’s air douche—British aurists remained ambivalent about applying the procedure for deaf patients. In addition to his herbal remedies, Alexander Turnbull performed surgical procedures on his patients, including syringing, removal of obstructions with forceps, and Eustachian tube catheterization. According to aurist William Wright,… Continue Reading