• 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

  • What do you do when you’re sick?

    I like to ask my students this question at the beginning of the term to help them get a mindset of what disease and illness was like in the early modern period and medieval ages. When confronted with the inevitable reality of disease, how did people of the Middle Ages react? Of the different forms… 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

  • Quack Curers for the Deaf

    During the 1830s, Alexander Turnbull (c.1794-1881), advertised a remedy he conjured, which he professed was capable of curing any cases of deafness not arising from organic disease. In particular, he advocated the use of veratria, a poisonous alkaloid obtained from the hellebore root, as an ointment applied to the external ear; the same treatment, along… Continue Reading

  • Monday Series: Objects of Philosophical Discourse: Deafness and Language in the 1600s

    Welcome to yet another edition of this blog’s Monday Series. This series examines how philosophical interest in universal language amongst the early members of the Royal Society of London shaped both philosophical and social perceptions of deafness during the seventeenth century.   INTRODUCTION The seventeenth century saw a tremendous surge in British publications examining deafness… Continue Reading

  • Monday Series: “In the Guise of a Friend” IV

    Regulation not Legislation: Avoiding “14 Million Sterilized” Robert Bruce states that as “a student of heredity, Bell could not resist moving beyond statistics to experimentation.”[1] Sheep breeding and heredity experiments on white cats fuelled Bell’s wistful ambition to be an active, publishing and professional scientist. Word of Bell’s breeding experiments eventually reached Charles Benedict Davenport,… Continue Reading

  • (Bleated) Monday Series: A Disease With No Remedy VI

    The British physicians as well, discussed the nature of hereditary transmission of phthisis, loosely gathering into opposing camps of solidists and humoralists.[1] Although the Dutch Hermann Boerhaave had already classified disorders either as congenital or connate, medical men in Britain who were interested in hereditary transmission debated on the possible causal routes of diseases in… Continue Reading

  • Monday Series: A Disease with No Remedy V

    By the end of the eighteenth century, many medical men had written exhaustively on the hereditary predisposition to phthisis, implementing medical hereditarianism as a social recourse for advocating social distances between elements of society. Historian Sean Quinlan argues that between 1748 and 1790, heredity in France gave doctors an idiom for diagnosis in light of… Continue Reading

  • Monday Series: A Disease with No Remedy IV

    Dear Reader, My apologies for the lack of posts and the lateness of this one. Apparently I’ve been so tired I failed to notice I didn’t schedule the Monday Series post properly. As always, thank you for reading. -Jai A fascinating perspective for the popularity of the hereditary theory of phthisis is given by historian… Continue Reading