• 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

  • Birth and Death Dates…

    I’m currently conducting my research through the 19th Century British Library Newspapers Database. I found this: So if Curtis died in 1852 at age 68, that would mean he was born in 1784, not 1778 as most secondary accounts note. I also have another source from the archives stating he died in 1852; most accounts… Continue Reading

  • “Who shall decide when aurists disagree?”

    As aural surgery became a “fashionable” trend amongst aristocratic households and several aurists increased in prosperity, conflict between aurists became characteristic of the field. Aurists fiercely competed with each other for positions, status, and patients, and accused each other of being quacks. “Quack” seemed to be less than an accusatory term than a label thrown… Continue Reading

  • Sound the Trumpets

    Curtis’ Dispensary aimed to not only provide treatment for the poor and destitute populations, but also to supply acoustic instruments to those with severe hearing loss irremediable by medical treatments. Curtis was prolific in instrument design; taking into account new theories on sound and his own understanding of the physiology of the ear, he invented… Continue Reading

  • Mr. Curtis’ Acoustic Chair

    First introduced and described in the fourth edition of his Treatise on the Physiology and Diseases of the Ear (1831), John Harrison Curtis’ acoustic chair earned him national recognition as an inventor during the first half of the nineteenth century. The chair is a large library chair affixed with a trumpet alongside the chair such… Continue Reading

  • Self-Image

    J.F. Clarke (1874) on Curtis’ particular self-image:  His hours for consultation were between 11 and 2. He would not see a patient five minutes before 11 or five minutes after 2; and this practice he carried on even to the last—to a time, indeed, when he literally “wanted a guinea.” He never allowed a servant… Continue Reading

  • Trust in Quacks

    Lacking a proper medical degree or the right sorts of qualifications were often indicators for defining the quack medical practitioner. Or so it was accordingly to the Royal College of Physicians, who were always wary of their financial state in the medical marketplace. Yet the lay public were not always clear as to who the… Continue Reading

  • Research Frustrations! RDDE and Lost Records

    In 1817, John Harrison Curtis founded the Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear, the first hospital in England offering specialized care for ear diseases. What was once a small practice aimed at introducing various modes of treatments for all kinds of ear diseases, the Dispensary grew to such a degree that a contemporary noted: “crowds… Continue Reading