The stress of life
Professor Mark Jackson University of Exeter
Since the late nineteenth century, stress has emerged as a popular means of explaining the onset of both physical and psychological disorders. Yet the definition of stress remains problematic and the manner in which stress might cause disease is still undetermined. This presentation will trace the history of stress in the twentieth century, exploring scientific theories, clinical formulations and personal experiences of stress and stress-related diseases.
The female malady? The relationship between madness, psychiatry and gender
Royal Edinburgh Hospital Bicentenary Lecture
Dr Gayle Davis University of Edinburgh
This talk will explore the relationship between madness, psychiatry and gender over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, using the Royal Edinburgh Asylum as a case study. It will outline the ways in which psychiatrists linked different types of mental illness to their male and – in particular – female patients, and what values lay behind those differing diagnoses. The talk will also consider why mental illness has been characterised historically as the ‘female malady’, and how accurate this characterisation appears to be within the context of Edinburgh psychiatry.
The evolution of controlled trials before the middle of the twentieth century
Sir Iain Chalmers Editor, James Lind Library
Contrary to widely believed assertions, the concept of unbiased creation of treatment comparison groups in clinical trials was not ‘a seminal statistical idea’, but was rooted in the much older idea that fair tests of treatments involve comparing like with like, achieved at least 200 years ago using alternate allocation to treatment comparison groups. Strict alternation deals with selection bias as effectively as strict random allocation, but alternation is more likely to result in foreknowledge of allocations among those recruiting research participants. The historical importance of the iconic MRC streptomycin trial published in 1948 is not its use of random sampling numbers to generate the allocation schedule. Rather, it is its clear description of the precautions taken to conceal the schedule, and so secure unbiased allocation. Several hundred reports of controlled trials published before 1948 have already been identified. However, without multilingual, collaborative research the history of the evolution of the controlled trial, a crucially important technology in medical research, will remain seriously incomplete.
Wurst than the other sausages: food, fear and public health in Victorian and Edwardian Britain
Professor Keir Waddington Cardiff University
The paper combines history of science, food and culture and applies these to Anglo-German relations and perceptions by examining how between 1850 and 1914 the German sausage was used as a metaphor for the German nation. Alarm about what went into German sausages was both part of wider concerns about food safety and formed part of a growing strand of popular anti-German sentiment, which drew on increasing insecurity about Britain’s position on the world stage and the perceived economic threat Germany and German immigrants presented.
Voices of the mad: patients’ letters from the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, 1873-1908
12th December 2012 Royal Edinburgh Hospital Bicentenary Lecture
Dr Allan Beveridge Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline
The Royal Edinburgh Asylum is fortunate in having a very rich archive of its history, including an extensive collection of patient accounts of their mental struggles and experiences of the institution. This paper focuses on the period when the renowned psychiatrist Thomas Clouston was Superintendent. Drawing on over a thousand patient letters, it examines the lives of inmates: their feelings of being unjustly confined, and the tedium of institutional life, but also the relationships which were struck up with fellow-patients and staff. The paper looks at patients’ descriptions of their mental worlds: of being tormented by voices, plagued by electricity and X-Ray machines, condemned to execution, and coming into untold wealth.
Animals and their pathologists in London, 1846-1900
Dr Abigail Woods Imperial College, London
This paper uses the records of the Pathological Society of London, a key institution for the advancement of pathology, to reveal the place and purpose of animals within human pathological anatomy during the later 19th century. While animals, both wild and domestic, accounted for less than 5% of the specimens exhibited at their meetings, they were nonetheless regarded as legitimate subjects of pathological research by doctors. Their routes into PSL meetings illustrate the ubiquity of animals within Victorian society, the professional and social settings in which Victorian doctors encountered them, and the networks through which they were acquired for pathological purposes.
The Piano Plague: The Nineteenth-Century Medical Campaign Against Female
Dr James Kennaway Durham University
Although playing the piano was often seen as a thoroughly respectable pastime for young ladies,
for much of the nineteenth century there was serious medical discussion about the dangers of
excessive music in girls’ education. Many of the period’s leading psychiatrists and gynaecologists
argued that music could over-stimulate the female nervous system, playing havoc with
vulnerable nerves and reproductive organs, and warned of the consequences of music lessons
on the developing bodies of teenage girls. This talk will examine some of the theories relating to
this medical panic and consider the motivations behind it.
Is there such a thing as "Scottish Medicine?"
Dr David Hamilton University of St Andrews
Medical practice and medical education in Scotland have shown distinctive features from
earliest times, and these distinctions may in fact be increasing. The reasons for these differences
will be explored, notably in relation to attitudes to scholarship and support for the common
George III and the Porphyria Myth: Diagnostic Implications for
Professor Timothy Peters University of Birmingham
Considerable doubt has been cast on the claim that King George
III suffered from acute porphyria.
The alternate diagnosis of recurrent acute mania is much more in
keeping with his clinical
features, but historians and their adherents still claim that suggestive
features of acute porphyria
in some of his ancestors, notably King James VI/I, support a diagnosis
of porphyria in George
III. Assessment of his detailed and complex clinical history and
features using the computerised
diagnostic aid SimulConsult provides no support for porphyria in
James but indicates a quite
unexpected diagnosis that may help to explain the King’s
medical condition and psychological
Vesalius and the Canon of the Human Body
Dr Sachiko Kusukawa University of Cambridge
Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica
(1543) is a landmark publication in the history of medicine,
well known for its illustrations. Yet, the actual function of these
illustrations within Vesalius own project of classical anatomy
has not always been appreciated. In this talk, Dr Kusukawa examines
the different - and often ingenious - ways in which Vesalius used
anatomical images in his book.
After Burke and Hare: Procuring Corpses to Dissect in Scotland
Dr Helen MacDonald University of Melbourne
Grave-robbing and the Burke and Hare murders have become anatomy’s
enduring reference points, but during the nineteenth century most
bodies were stealthily acquired by medical schools through other
means. After the 1832 Anatomy Act a distinctive pattern of corpse
procurement was creatively forged in Scotland, through alliances
between the country’s anatomists, anatomy inspectors, local
law makers, and the men who were in charge of hospitals, poor houses
and lunatic asylums. This system was one that the English schools
could only envy.
Something Borrowed, Something Blue: The Strange History of
Professor Mary Fissell The Johns Hopkins University
Aristotle's Masterpiece is neither a masterpiece nor by Aristotle.
It was the best-selling popular book about reproduction from its
first publication in 1684 all the way into the 1930s. It offers
us a rare window into plebeian sexuality, popular medical books,
and reading practices.
What Killed Burns – and What did Not?
Emeritus David Purdie Hull & York
University Medical School
The poet and songwriter Robert Burns died in 1796, aged 37. There
was no post-mortem and
hence no tissue diagnosis. Detractors, commencing with unsigned
obituaries, assigned the cause
firmly to alcoholism. This paper, illustrated by images from the
National Archives, will examine
the evidence for a range of alternative diagnoses
The war against tobacco: from the lessons of General Sun Tzu
to the leadership of Sir John Crofton
Professor Judith Mackay Senior Advisor, World Lung Foundation
Sir John Crofton (1912-2009) was among the early pioneers to recognize
the dangers of tobacco.
Ahead of his time, he combined the science with influential political
and health advocacy,
urging strong policy, legislative and tax measures. With characteristic
vigour, he planted seeds of
knowledge about tobacco and tobacco control measures globally.
Health professionals might well
study Chinese General Sun Tzu’s “Art of War,” written
in the 6th century BC, which has long
been regarded as a classic work on probing the enemy, military
strategy, tactics and logistics, full
of sound instruction, which has great relevance to today’s
war against tobacco.
The Doctor-Patient Relationship in Art: From Ancient Greece
to the Present Day
Professor Emeritus Alan Emery Edinburgh and
The doctor-patient relationship has changed considerably over
the centuries. There have often
been cyclical changes: diagnostic improvements leading to increased
respect but often followed
by disillusionment if there is subsequently no effective treatment.
The relationship is especially
exemplified in works of art because, as John Berger has emphasised, ‘No
other kind of relic or text
from the past can offer such a direct testimony about the world
which surrounded other people at other
Sir William Brooke O'Shaughnessy (1808-1889):
Cholera, Cannabis and Communications
Dr Neil MacGillivray, Honorary Post Doctoral
Fellow, School of History, Classics and Archeology, University
Poems on Plagues: Thomas Sprat and the Later History of the Plague of
Professor Helen King University of Reading
Iain Milne, Sibbald Librarian
Edinburgh’s Role in Thyroid Hormone Therapy
Dr Anthony Toft Former Consultant Physician, Royal
Infirmary, Edinburgh and Former President, Royal College of
Physicians of Edinburgh
Alexander Morison’s Scottish Mental Disease Practice,
Dr Mike Barfoot, University of Edinburgh
Away with the Fairies. What Happened to Arthur Conan Doyle’s
father, Charles Altamont Doyle?
Dr Allan Beveridge, Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline
Anatomical Illustrations of the 16th Century: Vesalius & Geminus
Professor Iain Donaldson, Royal College of Physicians
of Edinburgh and University of Edinburgh
Sir Robert Sibbald’s Shifting Reputation: Five Centuries
of Iconography, Bibliography and Mythology
Mr Iain Milne, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Changing Childbirth Nineteenth-Century Style: Primary Texts
for the Medicalisation of Childbirth 1850-1935
Dr Alison Nuttall, Independent Scholar
The Madness of King George III: A Re-Examination of the Records
Professor Timothy Peters, University of Birmingham