history of medicine

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“The radium water worked fine until his jaw fell out”

From the early 20th century up to the 1930’s the use of radioactive materials for dubious quack medical cures were common.  There were various machines which could irradiate the body, radium laced salves and creams, radioactive medicines, radium cosmetics, and a wide variety of other radioactive products.  One popular product was radioactive health water.  Often distilled water containing radium, it was marketed to treat or cure a wide variety of ailments. Whether you suffered from rheumatism or cancer, or if you simply need a boost of revigorating energy in your day to day life, radium water was a miracle cure for just about anything.  Many radium water producers advocated drinking radium water as a necessity of healthy living.  At first companies simply sold bottled radium water on its own.  Later, various products were marketed as a way to make your own radium water at home. Such products were either inserts which were placed in a jar of water, or were radium lined crocks with a tap which one used to brew radium water.

Radium water was legally sold until 1932 when a famous athlete named Eben Beyers died that year.  Beyers was a popular consumer and spokesperson for Radithor, a brand of radium water manufactured by Baily Radium Laboratories Inc.  It was founded by Dr. William J. A. Baily, who was not a real doctor but claimed his concoction of distilled water, radium, and mesothorium gave the consumer extra energy and strength.  In 1932, Beyers had to have his jaw removed due to mouth cancer.  A short time later he was dead.  The Wall Street Journal did an expose of Radithor entitled “The Radium Water Worked Fine Until his Jaw Fell Out”.  Outrage from Beyers’ death forced the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the dangers of radioactive health products, which eventually led to a ban in 1933.

Today is a good day to remember Dr. Joseph “Joe” Medicine Crow. Dr Crow was as American as heroes come. He was the last Warchief of the Crow Tribe having completed all 4 necessary acts of bravery. During the Second World War he disarmed an enemy without killing him, captured an enemy, led a successful war party and, needing only one more to complete the set he stole nazi officers’ horses. He’s said to have ridden the 50 horses out of the camp wearing his feathers and singing his war song and so surprised the soldiers that nobody knew what to do. 

He went into battle with his eagle feathers and face painted and came home to receive a masters degree and honorary doctorate. He studied the history of The Crow Nation and was the last person to talk to someone who had been at Little Bighorn/greasy grass. He founded health and education centers for his tribe and fought for the preservation of the Grizzly bear’s habit, he called the bears his brothers. As befits a man who distinguished himself in every aspect of his life, Dr. Medicine Crow received the medal of freedom from president Obama. He passed away a year ago today.

We should all count more coup on fascists and learn more Native history and generally try to be more like Dr. Medicine Crow #native #history #nodapl

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A curious herbal containing five hundred cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick engraved on folio copper plates, 

By Blackwell, Elizabeth,
John Nourse.
Samuel Harding.
Publication info
London : Printed for Samuel Harding, 1737-1739.
BHL Collections:
Blog Features
Missouri Botanical Garden’s Materia Medica
Missouri Botanical Garden’s Rare Books Collections

The “sacred disease” was a euphemism for ἐπιληψία (epilepsia, literally “condition of being seized upon”). The Greek term is rather less specific than “epilepsy,” and could refer to a range of sudden seizures.

The Romans called seizures morbuscomitialis, the assembly disease, because political meetings were adjourned if someone in attendance had a seizure, such an attack being considered a bad omen.

Photographs of William W. Keen’s successful operation to remove a brain tumor from a 26-year old patient, 1887. The patient was a carriage maker who exhibited symptoms of severe headaches, seizures, and partial blindness; he also had a history of a head injury and was prone to aphasia.

Owing to Keen’s demands at that proper antiseptic measures were taken for the operation (including removing the carpet and cleaning walls and ceiling), the tumor was removed after a two hour operation. Despite some complications with wound closure and cerebrospinal fluid leak, the patient lived for thirty years, even donating his brain to his surgeon for anatomical study.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 1918.

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These color lithographs illustrating amputation are from Jean Marc Bourgery’s monumental Traité complet de l'anatomie de l'homme.  This work was originally published in eight volumes over the course of twenty-three years (1831-1854); Bourgery himself died before it was completed.

The illustrations were done by Nicholas-Henri Jacob, a student of the renowned French Revolution era painter Jacques Louis David.