The Mesmerist: John Elliotson (1791-1868)

In 1837, when 19-year-old Queen Victoria ascended the British throne, medicine was a bleak and brutal business. Operations were performed without pain relief while the standard medical therapies were bloodletting, purging and dosing with toxic potions. But that summer a promising medical innovation crossed the Channel from Paris: mesmerism. Most of the British medical establishment scorned this new-fangled French idea but one doctor, the highly esteemed physician John Elliotson, embraced mesmerism with zeal. For 18 months in 1837 and 1838 Elliotson staged dramatic demonstrations on his patients at University College Hospital which drew fascinated audiences, provoked sensational headlines and – ultimately – split the medical profession.

The Mesmerist: John Elliotson (1791-1868) is an exhibition at the Library of the Royal Society of Medicine.
1 Wimpole Street, LONDON  W1G 0AE

This exhibition tells the story of John Elliotson and his battle to promote mesmerism – hypnotism as it was later renamed – in the face of furious opposition from the medical establishment and medical press.  Elliotson was President of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London in 1833, and it was during his term of office that the Society was granted a Royal Charter to become, in 1834, the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.

Robert Greenwood, Heritage Officer, The Royal Society of Medicine Library

Farewell Dr Finlay – repeat broadcast

Dr Finlay was a  character based on a pre-NHS General Practitioner

There is another opportunity to hear the BBC Radio 4, 2-part series ‘Farewell Dr Finlay’ which charts the history and development of General Practice from the surgeon-apothecaries of the 18th and 19th centuries to present day general practice.

There are contributions from Martin Edwards (BSHM/RCGP),  John Ford (Worshipful Society of Apothecaries), Julian Tudor Hart (GP researcher) as well as Professor Anne Digby (Oxford Brookes University), Bill Reith (RCGP) and others.

The programmes include information about surgeon-apothecaries, the importance of the National Health Insurance Act of 1911, the Dewar Committee of 1912 which led to the establishment of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, the Beveridge Report of 1944, the Tredegar Medical Society, the GP Charter of 1965, fundholding, the change in out of hours care and much more.

The evolution of general practice has been shaped by resource issues, rising patient expectations and what work is carried out in general practice as opposed to the hospital.

Would you agree with Martin Edwards that ‘The history of medicine is the history of general practice’?

Dates for your diary:

Part 1 (General Practice up to the creation of the NHS): 9.02 pm, Wednesday 18th January 2017
Part 2 (General Practice since the creation of the NHS): 9.02 pm, Wednesday 25th January 2017

The original programme page for the series is still on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07j7nty, although it won’t show the repeats until nearer the dates.

Dr Martyn Thomas

Open House London

Open-House

During the weekend of 17/18th September 2016 many private and public buildings in Greater London are open for viewing with free admission.

These include several premises related to the history of medicine:

The Royal College of Physicians (+herb garden)
Apothecaries Hall
The Royal College of GPs
The Royal College of Nursing
The College of Optometrists
The Old Operating Theatre Museum

For details go to http://www.openhouselondon.org.uk/

Dr Isaac ‘Harry’ Gosset Collection

Dr Isaac Henry Gosset sitting outside in front of weeping willow tree at spring around teatime by daughtr Janet

Future 20th century medical historians will lament that there is very little surviving United Kingdom archival material relating to the development of premature baby units and general paediatrics from the end of the Second World War to the mid 1960’s.

‘The Gosset Collection’ is an online repository of the life and work of Dr Isaac ‘Harry’ Gosset, consultant paediatrician Northampton General Hospital, illustrating exemplary general paediatric and premature baby care (1947-1965). Within it, you can take the healthcare journey of the newborn child or paediatric case of that time.

Established as part of a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr Gosset’s untimely death, the ‘Gosset Collection’  has complete premature baby and general paediatric care protocols, together with original film taken by Dr Gosset of the Premature Baby Unit as well as the General Paediatric Ward.

There is also a section on the development of the ‘Gosset icterometer, which Dr Gosset invented, developed and introduced into perinatal practice from the 1950’s and in use until the 1970’s. Made of Perspex the icterometer could rapidly and accurately identify neonatal jaundice, saving unnecessary blood tests and focusing attention on the sicker jaundiced newborn. The ‘Gosset Collection’ also contains the 1960 Lancet paper of a successful trial of the icterometer (through permission of Elsevier) an important landmark in neonatal medicine.  

Lastly, there is a short vodcast placing Dr Gosset’s pioneering work in premature baby care within the context of the early development of this sub speciality.

 http://www.northamptongeneral.nhs.uk/AboutUs/Ourhistory/Dr-Gosset/The-Dr-Isaac-Harry-Gosset-Collection.aspx

submitted by Dr Andrew Williams

Master of Medical History of the Society of Apothecaries (MMHSA)

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The Society of Apothecaries is planning to offer to a limited number of applicants each year the opportunity to work towards a Research Masters, namely Master of Medical History of the Society of Apothecaries (MMHSA). There is much still to be considered but the submission would consist of a dissertation and presentation of the subject at a lecture.Continue reading