Stories in medicine

Given below is a collection of  interesting stories in the history of medicine.These stories show how medical science developed over time, from the period of knowing nothing to were we are today. The history of medicine is filled with a lot of false beliefs,bad practices. But over time the medical field has developed and have outlived the periods of ignorance .The list has only a few stories now,if you have any story to share, mail me at:martin.jobin@gmail.com or post a comment below.

Hysteria

Until the seventeenth century, hysteria was regarded as of uterine origin (from the Greek ὑστέρα “hystera” = uterus) in the Western world. Hysteria referred to a medical condition, thought to be particular to women, caused by disturbances of the uterus. The origin of the term hysteria is commonly attributed to Hippocrates, even though the term isn’t used in the writings that are collectively known as the Hippocratic corpus. The Hippocratic corpus refer to a variety of illness symptoms, such as suffocation and Heracles’ disease, that are caused by the movement of a woman’s uterus to various locations within her

Women with hysteria under the effects of hypnosis.
Image via Wikipedia

body when it has become light and dry due to a lack of bodily fluids . One passage recommends pregnancy to cure such symptoms, ostensibly because intercourse will “moisten” the womb and facilitate blood circulation within the body.  Originally defined as “a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus” (“Hysterical”).

The same general definition, or under the name female hysteria, came into use in the middle and late 19th century to describe what is today generally considered to be sexual dysfunction. Typical treatment was massage of the patient’s genitalia by the physician and later vibrators or water sprays to cause orgasm.

Argyll Robertson Pupil-Prostitutes pupils

Argyll Robertson pupils (“AR pupils”) are bilateral small pupils that constrict when the patient focuses on a near object (they “accommodate”), but do not constrict when exposed to bright light (they do not “react” to light). They were formerly known as “Prostitute’s Pupils” because of their association with tertiary syphilis and because of the convenient mnemonic that, like a prostitute, they “accommodate but do not react.

Discovery of Penicillin

“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer,” Fleming would later say, “But I suppose that was exactly what I did”.

By 1928, Fleming was investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well-known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on holiday with his family. Before leaving he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory. On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci that had immediately surrounded it had been destroyed, whereas other colonies further away were normal. Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Price who said “That’s how you discovered lysozyme.”Fleming identified the mould that had contaminated his culture plates as being from the Penicillium genus, and, after some months of calling it “mould juice” named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March 1929.

He investigated its positive anti-bacterial effect on many organisms, and noticed that it affected bacteria such as staphylococci and many other Gram-positive pathogens that cause scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis and diphtheria, but not typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever, which are caused by Gram-negative bacteria, for which he was seeking a cure at the time. It also affected Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea although this bacterium is Gram-negative.

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  1. History of medicine is filled with stories, or mere incidents, serendipity. I think some of these may be taken as stories,though some people have a different opinion.I am sure this page will help you remember those discoveries which have changed our world.

  2. ya you are right am wrong!
    this page is best for remember those discoveries which have changed our world.

  3. “ONE NIGHT WITH VENUS, AN ETERNITY WITH MERCURY”

    A famous saying from the 19th century that originated from the extensive use of Mercury to treat Syphilis. In those days Syphilis was a major health problem, especially among the European soldiers. Due to the lack of knowledge about the transmission of the Spirochetes, and superstitious beliefs, Mercury was widely used in the form of Pills, Concoctions, Ointments etc. However, towards the beginning of the 19th century the venereal nature of the disease was established, and strict laws against prostitution were implemented throughout Europe. Having to consume Mercury was considered a bigger curse than Syphilis itself, due to the toxic side effects, and hence the saying. Side effects from the metal included tooth loss, GI ulceration, neurological damage, and even death. Yet, Mercury continued to be the primary treatment for Syphilis until the early 20th century. Arsenic was also tried as Salversan with limited success, but it was the Discovery of Penicillin that changed the game, and it continues to be the Single most effective first line drug for the treatment of Syphilis :-)

    The history of Evolution of Medicine as we know today is a truly wonderful subject. Sometimes I wonder if the future generations will criticize us for the various Chemo drugs that are in use today. A thought to ponder.

  4. Great one Sachin,thumbs up…

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