history of medicine
A quack is defined by Google.com as "a person who dishonestly claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically in medicine." There are other words relating to a quack, such as humbug, charlatan, con artist, and swindler. Overall, anything recommended by a quack will not be useful. In fact, it may be quite dangerous. It may just take your life.
Most of the time, quacks lured in their victims by promising medical miracles. The cures themselves are so dubious that only the desperate would try them. However, the authors of Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything suggest that quackery is not just about pure deception but, in fact, includes situations when people believe that what they're selling may actually be working. Some examples of common practices include the citizens of the Ottoman Empire eating clay to keep the plague away and the Victorians using mercury steam rooms to cure syphilis.
This ad ran in the newspaper on April 7, 1925
ATTENTION! NURSE GRADUATES
with a sense of adventure! Your own horse, your own dog, and a thousand miles of Kentucky mountains to serve. Join my nurses’ brigade and help save children’s lives. Write to:
Hyden, Kentucky, U.S.A.
It may have been the 20th century in the cities and towns, but in the Appalachian Mountains, it might as well have been the 18th century. Most medicine came from a granny-woman who did her best, but without knowing more or having modern medicines and equipment, a granny-woman’s best often wasn’t good enough to save lives.
Mary Breckinridge trained as a nurse in World War I and started the Frontier Nursing Service. To bring medical treatment to the people who needed it, her nurses would have to ride many miles and endure much hardship. But she and her nurses would also have to earn their trust, for mountain people are wary of outsiders.
What would really happen if thousands of people died in a city every day from an illness? Even worse, a city with few to no hospitals and only a bare bones emergency infrastructure? When the illness might leave no mark on a person until he or she fell over dead in front of you? And that’s when you realize, you have been exposed and could be next. What would you do?
Some people today fear going under the surgeon’s knife. It’s mostly a dread of the unknown. What might happen while they are knocked out, unaware of what is going on around them. They may not realize how fortunate they are. In Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, readers are swept back in time to a period before anesthesia was generally used. A good surgeon was a swift, careful cutter who could make the operation as mercifully short as possible for his wide-awake patient. He might even do some good for the patient in the process.
Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science.
What an amazing story! The pictures and illustrations add to the narrative, and the cover photograph of his skull is very thought-provoking. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story, by John Fleischman, approaches Phineas’s life after the accident from a scientific and psychological viewpoint. Fleischman includes interviews with people who knew Gage before his accident as well as after and observed the changes in his behavior. The author also presents notes from the doctors who treated him over the eleven years following his accident. It is an amazing story of survival and the resilience of the human brain. Who would have thought that anyone could have survived even a little while--let alone talk, walk and function after such an event?
"By the King's Patent Granted" was a common embossing on English medicines of the 18th century. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries patent medicines reigned supreme as cures for everything from "hooping" cough to kidney ailments.