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Stolen watches, & an experiment that didn’t happen: William Cheselden, the Deaf Countess, & Charles Ray

Hugh Dominic WStiles9 August 2019

William Cheselden (1688-1753) has been called “one of the most brilliant operators whose achievements are on record” (DNB 1921-2, p. 192)He was born in Burrough-on-the-Hill (but in the parish of Somerby), Leicestershire,  and trained under William Cowper (1666-1709), an anatomist who was  involved in an early plagiarism scandal.

Cheselden became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1712, and in 1713 published a student book, The Anatomy of the Human Body.  He married Deborah Knight on the 24th of July, 1713, at St Olave, Bermondsey.  She appears to have been the daughter of Thomas Knight, and niece of  Robert Knight, the chief cashier of the South Sea Company, who escaped prosecution in connection with the accompanying ‘bubble’ in 1720.  (Sir Robert Walpole’s rise to power was linked to Knight, the South Sea Company and its demise.)  It seems that Cheselden invested £1,000 in the company in 1714, the same amount as Sir Isaac Newton.  Perhaps he was ‘encouraged’ by his wife or her family.

Henrietta Howard (1689-1767), Countess of Suffolk, was born Henrietta Hobart at Blickling Hall, Norfolk.  She had  a very interesting life, but a very difficult one.  She married Charles Howard, later 9th Earl of Suffolk.  He was a gambler, and was violent towards her.  Whether her hearing loss was caused by being abused by her husband, or from some other reason we cannot say.  Her hearing loss was however central to her life, already seeming apparent in 1721. In 1727 she told Swift she had ‘a bad head and deaf ears’ (Borman, p.97).  Alexander Pope wrote this of her –

I know the thing that’s most uncommon;
(Envy be silent and attend!)
I know a Reasonable Woman,
Handsome and witty, yet a Friend.

Not warp’d by Passion, aw’d by Rumour,
Not grave thro’ Pride, or gay thro’ Folly,
An equal Mixture of good Humour,
And sensible soft Melancholy.

‘Has she no Faults then (Envy says) Sir?’
Yes she has one, I must aver:
When all the World conspires to praise her,
The Woman’s deaf, and does not hear.

She was known for her discretion it seems – probably as she could not follow much of the gossip of court (ibid. p.98).  Henrietta became a friend of Queen Caroline before the accession of George II, and later became one of the king’s mistresses.  Cheselden became Surgeon to the Queen in 1727 (Cope, p.32).  At that time doctors still had a very imperfect understanding of the hearing system, and new discoveries were being made.  Cope says that Queen Caroline herself was “rather deaf” (Cope, p.32), and that as a consequence a ‘test’ operation was planned as an experiment on a prisoner, to find a cure or rather a treatment for deafness.  This hearing loss or deafness is something unsubstantiated by any other source I have been able to find.  Either Cope misunderstood, and substituted the Queen for the Countess, or he had some other information.

Charles Ree, Rey or Ray of St. Martin’s in the Fields was a barber.  In 1730 he was “indicted for feloniously stealing 5 Silver Watches, value 30 l. in the Dwelling-House of Paul Beauvau, the 29th of October” (Old Bailey Records).  he was sentenced to death, which was commuted to transportation.

According to Horace Walpole,

“(112) Lady Suffolk was early affected with deafness. Cheselden, the surgeon, then in favour at court, persuaded her that he had hopes of being able to cure deafness by some operation on the drum of the ear, and offered to try the experiment on a condemned convict then in Newgate, who was deaf. If the man could be pardoned, he would try it; and, if he succeeded, would practise the same cure on her ladyship. She obtained the man’s pardon, who was cousin to Cheselden, who had feigned that pretended discovery to save his relation-and no more was heard of the experiment. The man saved his ear too – but Cheselden was disgraced at court.”

Here we have the report from the Monthly Intelligencer for January, 1731.  It seems that Ray was to be reprieved from his sentence in return for being the guinea pig in an experiment to understand the role of the tympanum, in order to try to treat deafness.

The same volume of the Monthly Intelligencer continued the story, with an attack by ‘Quibus’ in an imagined lecture, which was written by Thomas Martyn, botanist.

And then continued on page 19 where a defence of the operation at the Royal Society is quoted.

The older Oxford DNB 1922 article says,

In December 1727 Cheselden was appointed surgeon to Queen Caroline. Later on he would appear to have been out of favour at court, and was not called in during the Queen’s last illness. An improbable story is told that Cheselden gave offence in high quarters by neglecting to perform a certain experimental operation on a condemned criminal. The proposed experiment consisted in perforating the membrana tympani, or drum of the ear, so as to show whether this part is the seat of hearing, and whether the operation could safely be done to relieve deafness. Cheselden in his Anatomy tells the story as follows : ‘Some years since a malefactor was pardoned on condition that he suffered this experiment, but he falling ill of a fever the operation was deferred, during which time there was so great a public clamour raised against it that it was afterwards thought fit to be forbid.’ Proposing the operation, rather than neglecting to do it, was more probably the offence.

The quote seems to be from the 1740 edition of the work. 

In Sir Zachery Cope’s 1953 biography of Cheselden, he says that Walpole is incorrect, and that such an incident would be unlikely to lead to a loss of favour at court.  “From the point of view of the health of the Queen her change of surgeon may well have been unfortunate for, as is well known, she died from the results of a strangulated umbilical hernia and Cheselden had already published an account of his successful treatment of such a hernia”. After her death Cheselden continued to be referred to as ‘surgeon to her late Majesty’ (p.35).

Gossip though he was, Horace Walpole knew the Countess well, so surley his information would have come from her?  Borman says that Henrietta would listen to Walpole’s questions with a tortoiseshell ear trumpet, and almost whisper her replies (p.252).  It seems unlikely that there was a familial relationship between Cheselden and Ray, but the rumour must have persisted.  It is possible, but we would need to trace records for Ray before he was prosecuted.  Is it possible that as Ray was a barber there was a connection with the barber-surgeons?

Cheselden was buried at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.  The Countess of Suffolk was buried in Berkeley Castle, with her second husband.

As for Charles Ray, the Ipswich Journal for Saturday the 6th of March, 1731, says “Charles Ray, who received Sentence of Death, but upon his submiting to have an Experiment try’d upon his Ear, by an eminent Surgeon, for the better finding out the Cause and Cure of Deafness, was afterwards order’d for Transportation; is continued in Jail, his Transportation being stopt.”  The Caledonian Mercury for Tuesday the 30th of March, 1731, says “The Experiment that was to have been made on the Ear of Charles Ray, is now laid aside, and he is to have a free Pardon. ‘Tis to be feared, that as there has been so great a Clamour against this Experiment, neither this nor any other useful Experiment will ever be made this way.” 

I wonder what became of him?

Here I have tried to sketch out the relationships between the people mentioned.

Borman, Tracy, Henrietta Howard, King’s Mistress, Queen’s Servant. Jonathan Cape, 2007

Charles Ray, John Winslow, Theft – theft from a specified place, Theft – receiving, 4th December 1730 Old Bailey Records

Cheselden, William.  Anatomy of the Human Body. London: William Bowyer, 1712

Cope, Sir Zachery, William Cheselden, 1688-1752, E & S Livingstone, Edinburgh & London, 1953

Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-22 London, England: Oxford University Press; Volume: Vol 04; Page: 192 1921-2 edition

Horace Walpole’s Letters p.141 & 148

John Kirkup, ‘Cheselden, William (1688–1752)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/5226, accessed 22 Sept 2017]

https://epdf.pub/a-political-biography-of-alexander-pope-eighteenth-century-political-biographies.html

https://words.fromoldbooks.org/Chalmers-Biography/c/cheselden-william.html

https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-75056?rskey=roxYmw&result=3

The Microphonograph of François Dussaud, 1897

Hugh Dominic WStiles26 July 2019

In the late 19th century there was an explosion in the development of electrical apparatus, particularly related to the telephone.  Some of these inventions would have implications for the eventual development of ‘assistive devices’ for deaf people, what we could call hearing aids.

François Dussaud (1870-1953) was a Swiss-born inventor, from Stäfa near Zurich (note he is also claimed for Geneva).  His father Bernard was a School Inspector.  He studied under the biologist Emile Yung, and was clearly talented, becoming a Phd in 1892.  He became Privatdozent at the University of Geneva in 1894.

A couple of years later he moved to Paris, and had what seems like a golden period of invention.  Dussaud worked on sound and light, and his first invention was the ‘Microphonograph,‘ followed by the ‘Teleoscope‘ and the ‘Multiphone.’

In January 1896, Dussaud was inspired by “the fate of an unfortunate deaf mute” and he

resumed a study that he had begun some time before, and applied his efforts to the finding of an apparatus that should increase the intensity of sound at will.  After a year of research, he, on the 29th of December last, operated with entire success, before a certain number of physicians, in the laboratory of physiology of the Sorbonne, the instrument to which he has given the name mentioned above. The amplification of sounds seemed extraordinary, and on the next day Dr. Laborde, superintendent of the laboratory of physiology, presented to his colleagues of the Academy of Medicine the result of the observations that he had made with the apparatus under consideration.

The microphonograph consists of two parts, a registering apparatus and a repeater.

The Registering Appantus,—This consists [see above figure] of a horizontal cylinder actuated by clockwork. Upon this cylinder is fixed a wax roller in front of which a piece of the size and shape of a watch is moved through a mechanism. This piece is formed essentially of small electromagnets that act upon a disk which controls the tool that is designated to engrave the wax. For registering feeble sounds, there is placed in the region corresponding to the organ to be examined a microphone of a peculiar system, that is connected with the microphonograph registering apparatus by an electric current, derived from 1 to 60 small sulphate of mercury elements. Through the intermedium of this current, the sounds collected by the microphone are faithfully repeated by the disk of the microphonograph and inscribed upon the wax by the graver.  (The Phonoscope, June 1897, p.10)

Another article explains,

EDISON tells us that he will shortly be able to make the blind see by means of the X rays. Meanwhile, Professor Dussaud, of the University of Geneva, has invented an apparatus to enable the deaf to hear. The microphonograph he has just issued to the world magnifies the human voice in the same way as a lens magnifies a picture. It is simply a telephone connected electrically with a phonograph, but a far more sensitive phonograph than Edison’s ordinary model. There is, of course, an electric battery, sulphate of mercury being used, and from one cell to sixty cells, according to the degree of deafness of the person. Of course, the apparatus is useless in case of absolute deafness ; but, fortunately, such an infirmity is far rarer than is suspected. Ninety-five per cent of so-called stone-deaf persons can be made to hear and understand by means of Professor Dussaud’s invention. How ? You speak into the phonograph. You make it repeat your words, which are transmitted by a sort of microphone and speaking tube into the deaf ear. Professor Dussaud, in the same order of ideas, is preparing for the 1900 exhibition an apparatus which will enable 10,000 people, who may be all deaf, to follow a lecture. (The Charities Review)

The American Annals of the Deaf, explored the use of the Microphonograph for Deaf education, in a series of articles.

This French website, Phonorama, has a nice photograph of Dussaud in his laboratory at the Sorbonne, and a photograph that the engraving above must owe something to.  This engraving illustrates Dussaud and a young Deaf boy, with the ‘ah!’ moment, for want of a better term, that is sometimes depicted in video clips of people who have cochlear implants turned on for the first time.

He produced other inventions, worked for Pathé for a while, and he also pioneered a way of playing sound with film.  During the First World War he worked as a scientific assistant on the war effort.  Dussaud spent the Second World War in Switzerland, and died in Paris in 1953.

Dussaud

The Microphonograph, British Deaf Monthly, 1898, p.148-9

H. Marichelle, The use of the Microphonograph in the education of the deaf. —I American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. Vol. 45, No. 6 (OCTOBER, 1900), pp. 495-503

H. Marichelle, The use of the Microphonograph in the education of the deaf. —II American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 46, No. 1 (JANUARY, 1901), pp. 24-38

H. Marichelle, The use of the Microphonograph in the education of the deaf. —III American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 46, No. 2 (MARCH, 1901), pp. 149-158

Ladreit de Lacharrière, The Dussaud Microphonograph, American Annals of the Deaf, Vol. 44, No. 1 (JANUARY, 1899), pp. 28-32

The Microphonograph, The Charities Review; New York Vol. 7, Iss. 5,  (Jan 1, 1898): 980

The Microphonograph – Scientific American

The Teleoscope – Scientific American

The Multiphone – Scientific American

SA Supplements 45, 1155 supp, 18457 (February 1898)

 

“but being deaf, the Spirit not the Body tires” – the Duke of Wellington’s Hearing Loss

Hugh Dominic WStiles3 May 2019

Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who was born 250 years ago, in 1769, suffered from noise-related hearing loss caused by artillery.  William Wright tells us,

The Duke of Wellington was inspecting an experimental carriage for a howitzers and whilst in advance of the gun, gave the word ” Fire ;” the result was the rupture of the membrane of the drum of the left ear. The Duke went immediately to Mr. Stevenson who told his Grace the story, about thickening the drum of the ear. The solution of caustic was applied; instant pain ensued, from the caustic passing through the ruptured membrane amongst the ossicula, and very sensitive internal tissues. Within six hours the Duke was conveyed home from Lord Liverpool’s, in a state of insensibility, and it was only by most careful, skilful treatment that his life was then preserved. He went to Verona, a great sufferer, and the country had very properly to make a handsome compensation to Dr. Hume, and his family, for giving up his practice to attend the Duke on his mission. (Wright, 1860, p.75-6)

Graham Smelt says that this was on On August the 5th, 1822.  His hearing loss was made considerably worse by the botched treatment, a story related by a Mr Gleig, in an anecdote that suggests it was Hume who was to blame –

The Duke, many years ago, being deaf, sent for his medical man, who poured some stuff into his ear, not knowing that the drum of the ear was broken. This proved very mischievous in its results. The Duke said it was not sound that was restored to him; it was something terrifically beyond sound: the noise of a carriage passing under his window was like the rolling of thunder. Thus suffering, he returned home about the middle of the day, and went to bed. Next day, Dr. Hume called and found the Duke staggering about the room. Dr. Hume, although he well knew the Duke’s temperate habits, supposed that he had taken a little too much wine overnight, and had not recovered from it. He was leaving the room, when the Duke said to him : Hume, I wish you would look to my ear ; there is something wrong there.’ Hume looked and saw that a furious inflammation had begun, extending to the brain ; another hour, and the stuff would have done for the Duke what all his enemies had failed to do : it would have killed him. Hume bled him copiously, sent for Sir Henry Halford and Sir Astley Cooper, who treated him with great skill, and brought him round. The poor man came next day and expressed his great regret. The Duke spoke to him in his kindest manner and said, I know you did not mean to harm me ; you did your best, but I am very deaf.’ Upon which, the Doctor said, I am very sorry for it ; but my whole professional prospects are at stake, and if the world hears of it I shall be ruined.’ ‘The world need not hear at all about it,’ said the Duke; ‘keep your counsel, and I’ll keep mine.’ The Doctor, encouraged by this, went a little further : Will you let me attend you still, and let the world suppose that you still have confidence in me ?’ ‘No, no,’ said the Duke, ‘I cannot do that ; that would not be truthful.’ (Davies, 1854 p.16-17)

To me this sounds like a well-rehearsed anecdote, but there is something ‘missing,’ it seems to me, in Wright’s account, in that he seems to imply that Hume had some hand in the affair without explicitly saying so.  Or is he just omitting Stevenson’s name, and ‘the poor man’ is Stevenson?  Smelt says that Stevenson was to blame, and that Hume treated him afterwards.  In an earlier book, Wright tells us –

Deleau states that he can reach the cavity of the tympanum by a bent probe, or catheter. If he even can do so, which I consider is very problematical, I am convinced the operation is attended with considerable danger, for the ossicula (the small bones) which extend from the inside of the membrana tympani, to the opposite side of the cavity, would be in great danger of being forced from the situation in which Providence has been pleased to place them, or their functions would be otherwise diminished, or destroyed, and such would be the effect of any injury being inflicted on this delicate organization, that inflammation of the brain, and even death, would be a probable consequence. An example of this was unfortunately nearly afforded about the end of 1822, or beginning of 1823, in the case of the Duke of Wellington, a lotion of lunar caustic had been dropped into the external auditory passage, there was an opening at the time through the membrane (or drum), from an accidental cause, and the caustic lotion entered the cavity beneath, containing the highly sensative [sic] integuments, and machinery therein placed ; the results were intense pain; in a few hours inflammation of the brain, with symptomatic fever, and his life was only preserved by the most prompt and efficient treatment pursued by his Physician, aided by other medical and surgical advice derived from the first men of the age. In June, 1823, I was called into attendance on his Grace, as his aurist, and continue still to attend him when necessary ; even at this distant period from the unfortunate occurrence, the Duke feels sufficient unpleasant effects occasionally, not to allow him to forget it, independent of the privation of his left ear.* Similar, if not even worse, must necessarily be the consequence of introducing an instrument into the cavity of the tympanum, even if the patient be in a state of health; but if there exist any tendency to inflammatory action, scrofula, or erysipelas, the danger is increased, and the disastrous effects, or even fatal termination of the experiment, for it is nothing more in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, unavoidable. (Wright, 1839, p.55-7)

* In pp. 159 and 160, of “An Exposition of Quackery and Imposture in Medicine,” written by Dr. Caleb Ticknor, of New York, republished in this country, which I edited, and upon which I wrote copious notes, will be found a further account of the Duke of Wellington’s case.

Note how free doctors were then with patient information, while the patient was still alive. Smelt suggests as well as the seriously damaged ear, he also had noise-induced hearing loss in his other ear as he got older.

In 1852 the Duke wrote in a letter,

I have none of the infirmities of old age I excepting Vanity perhaps. But that is a disease of the mind, not of the Body ! My deafness is accidental ! If I was not deaf, I really believe that there is not a youth in London who could enjoy the world more than myself or could bear fatigue better, but being deaf, the spirit, not the body, tires. One gets bored, in boring others, and one becomes too happy to get home. (Wellington, 1854, p.314-5)

Losing his hearing had other consequences, as we see from this on February 20th, 1848 from the Greville memoirs –

At the House of Lords on Friday night, for the Committee on the Diplomatic Bill. Government beaten by three, and all by bad management ; several who ought to have been there, and might easily have been brought up, were absent : the Duke of Bedford, Duke of Devonshire, Lord Petre, a Catholic, dawdling at Brighton, and Beauvale. The Duke of Wellington, with his deafness, got into a complete confusion, and at the last moment voted against Government. (Greville, 1888, p.129)

When he was in his eighties, as members of Derby’s 1852 government were announced, the now quite deaf Duke kept repeating, “Who? Who?”  It became known as the “Who? Who?” ministry.

Davies, George Jennings, The completeness of the late duke of Wellington as a national character, 1854

Greville, Charles Cavendish Fulke, The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV, King … 1888

Hazlitt, William, ed, Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington, The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament, Volume 2, 1854

Smelt, Graham, Wellington’s Deafness. Abstract presented at the meeting British Society for the History of ENT, Held December 1st 2011 In the Toynbee McKenzie Room, at the Royal Society of Medicine, London

Wright, William, A few minutes’ advice to deaf persons…, 1839

Wright, William, On the varieties of deafness and diseases of the ear, 1829

Wright, William,  Deafness and Diseases of the Ear: The Fallacies of Present Treatment Exposed … 18

Guichard Duvernay, pioneer of Otology (1648-1730)

Hugh Dominic WStiles14 September 2018

Guichard Joseph Du Verney (5 August 1648 – 10 September 1730) was a pioneer of otology.  He was born in Feurs, in the south of France, and studied at Avignon as a doctor befoire moving to Paris.  He became Court Anatomist – a post created for him (Hawkins, p.9).  As Hawkins says, “Duverney’s treatise is remarkable not only for its anatomical presentations, but also for its author’s thoughts on the physiology and pathology of the ear” (ibid).  Neil Weir and Albert Mudry say that it was also significant that it was published in French rather than Latin.  He was also, they continue, the first to show that the boney external meatus developed from the tympanic ring; that the Eusachian tube was a channel wherby the air in the tympanum was renewed; he explained bone conduction; he was the first to use the term boney labyrinth for the whole inner ear.  He produced his brilliant drawings without the aid of a microscope (Weir & Mudry, 2013 p.38-9).

That his book was translated to English over fifty years after his death, says a lot about how valuable it was considered.  We have copies of both the original, and the translation.

Le Vestibule est une cavité presque ronde, creusée dans I’os pierreux et d’environ une ligne et demie de diamètre. II est scitué derrière la fenestre ovale, et revestu par dedans d’une membrane parsemée de plusieurs vaisseaux : on y remarque neuf ouvertures dont il y en a une de laquelle il a déja esté parlé, sçavoir la fenestre ovale qui donne entrée de la quaisse du tambour dans le vestibule ; les huit autres lont dans la cavité de ce vestibule. La première mene dans la rampe superieure du limaçon ; il y en a’cinq qui donnent entrée dans les trois canaux demi-circulaires ; et les deux dernieres laissent passer deux branches de la portion molle du nerf auditif.

Je donneray des noms aux conduits demi – circulaires pour les distinguer, et je les nommeray par rapport à leur situation.  J’appelle le premier Supérieur parce; qu’il embrasse la partie superieure de la voute du vestibule ; le sécond Inferieur, parce qu’il entoure partie inferieure ; et le troisième qui est plus en dehors et sîtué entre les deux autres seranommé le Mitoyen. (1683, p.32-3)

The Vestibulum is a Cavity almost round, formed out of the Os Petrosum, and about a Line and a half in diameter. It is situated behind the Fenestre Ovalis, and covered on the Inside by a Membrane, furnished with a great many Vessels.  There are nine Foramina in it, of which one has been already described, viz. the Fenestre Ovalis, which forms an Entrance from the Tympanum into the Vestibulum; the other eight are in the Cavity of the Vestibulum: The first leading into the upper Range or Scala of the Coclea; there are five more which afford Entrance to the three Semi-circular Canals; and the two last through which two Branches of the Portio Mollis of the Auditory nerve pass.

I shall give Names to the  three Canales Semicirculres to distinguish them, and I shall take those Names from their situation: The first  I call the Superior, because it takes up the upper Part of the Arch of the Vestibulum; the second Inferior, because it surrounds lower Part; and the third, which is placed more towards the Outside, and is situated betwixt the other two, Medius. (1737, p.32)

Hawkins says that Du Verney “was a true forerunner of Helmholtz, putting forward a resonance theory before its time” (Hawkins, p.9).  It seems that he also dissected an elephant, in front of King Louis XIV in 1681.  The book is full of beautiful plates, some reproduced here.  I showed it to a UCLH otologist, and he was amazed by their quality.  Unfortunately no portrait of him appears to survive.

Du Verney, Traité de l’organe de l’ouie, contenant la structure, les usages & les maladies de toutes les parties de l’oreille. A Paris, : chez Estienne Michallet, ruë S. Jacques à l’image S. Paul. 1683

Traité de l’organe de l’ouie… on Google Books

Du Verney, A treatise of the organ of hearing: : containing the structure, the uses, and the diseases of all the parts of the ear./ Translated from the French of the late Monsieur Du Verney, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Counsellor Physician in Ordinary to the late King of France, and Professor of Anatomy and Surgery in the Royal Physick-Garden at Paris. Translated by John Marshall. 1737

Desai, Sapan S & Dua, Anahita, History of Research in the Vestibular System: A 400-Year-Old Story.  Anatomy &  Physiology 2014, 4:2 DOI: 10.4172/2161-0940.1000138

Hawkins, Joseph E., Auditory Physiological History: A Surface View. Chapter 1, p.1-28, in  Santos-Sacchi, Joseph R., Physiology of the Ear. 2001

Weir, N. and Mudry, A., Otorhinolaryngology: an illustrated history, 2013

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph-Guichard_Du_Verney

“there is nothing, as I have said, in this mortal life except inanity, emptiness, and dream-shadows” – Girolamo Cardano 1501-76

Hugh Dominic WStiles1 June 2018

Girolamo Cardano (1501-76), or Hieronymus Cardanus, or Jerome Cardan, to use the Italian, Latin and English forms of his name, was born in Pavia.  His family lived in Milan during its occuption by the French.  His father was a lawyer.  Jerome was a sickly child, and seems to have had more than his fair share of accidents.  He attended the academy at Pavia, now the university, where he first lectured on Euclid (Cardano, p.11-13).  When he was twenty-five he became a doctor of medicine in Padua.

Attempting to make money from gambling, Cardano was the first person to work out the science of probability, though he did not get the credit for being first as he wanted the advantage of keeping the information to himself, and did not publish it in his lifetime.

Rejected by the Milanese College of Physicians (until 1539), he felt snubbed and was forced to make his reputation  in the provinces (see Hannam, p.238).  His philosophy was to allow patients to heal naturally so he did not introduce invasive and painful treatments to patients, rather prescibing rest & sensible eating.  This meant he was more successful than his fellows.  He was invited to Scotland by John Hamilton the archbishop of St. Andrews in 1551, who was very ill, and the archbishop recovered, and was full of praise for Cardano (ibid p.239).

He was rather obsessed by horoscopes, predicting he would die aged 45.  He prepared horoscopes of historical figures, including Jesus, though that later got him into trouble with the Inquisition.

We have a French version of De subtilitate rerumOn natural phenomena, whence came the illustrations here.

He was a remarkable and fascinating man, and his memoir makes for a lively and vivid read.  He is resonably honest and certainly phlegmatic.  The behaviour of his sons might have crushed a lesser man, one being a violent criminal, and the other in an unhappy marriage poisoned his wife and was executed.

“I am by no means unaware that these afflictions may seem meaningless to future generations, and more especially to strangers; but there is nothing, as I have said, in this mortal life except inanity, emptiness, and dream-shadows.” (p.83-4)

Below we see the page on the beaver.  For some reason, perhaps connected with the use of Castoreum, according to Aesop’s Fables and then Pliny the Elder, mediaeval tradition said beaver’s would chew off their own testicles to escape hunters.  As a beaver’s testicles are internal, perhaps that contributed  to the myth.Cardano, Girolama, The Book Of My Life. Translated by Jean Stoner (2002)

Les livres de Hierosme Cardanus medecin milannois: intitulez de la subtilité, & subtiles inuentions, ensemble les causes occultes, & raisons d’icelles. Traduits… Richard Le Blanc, Paris, Pour Pierre Cauelat ruë S. Iaques, à l’enseigne de l’escu de Florence (1584)

Hannam, James, God’s Philosophers (2009)

“Brandy for giddiness, 2s” – Jonathan Swift’s Meniere’s Disease

Hugh Dominic WStiles13 April 2018

One of the great writers of English, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was plagued for much of his life by bouts of giddiness, and by increasing deafness, though in many other respects he was healthy and lived to the age of seventy-seven.  It sometimes incapacitated him for long periods.

In August 1727 he wrote to Lady Henrietta Howard,

About two hours before you were born, I got my giddiness by eating a hundred golden pippins at a time at Richmond, and, when you were five years and a quarter old, baiting 2 days, I got my deafness, and these two friends, one or other, have visited me, every year since: and being old acquaintances, have now thought fit to come together.

It seems to have begun when he was twenty, according to the autobiographical notes in Forster’s biography (p.27),  but there, there is a footnote inserted that says Swift had added, “in 1690.”  The word ‘hours’ in the letter to Henrietta Howard may be an error for, or misreading of, ‘years,’ or it could be he had forgotten precisely when it happenened.

At first he self-medicated – on the 16th of November, 1708, he wrote “Brandy for giddiness, 2s.”

Bucknill (p.495-6) quotes Swift’s ‘Journal to Stella’ for October 1710: “This morning, sitting in my bed, I had a fit of giddiness; the room turned round for about a minute and then it went off leaving me sickish, but not very.  I saw Dr. Cockburn to-day, and he promises to send me the pills that did me good last year; and likewise has promised me an oil for my ears, that he has been making for that ailment for somebody else.”  The diagnosis seems to be that he had Ménière’s disease (see Bucknill and Bewley).

Some years after the letter, several newspapers published a poem that Swift had written about his illness, both in Latin and in English (Grub Street Journal, Thursday, November 14, 1734; Issue 255), although the version with the answers seems to be later –

Vertiginosus, inops, surdus, male gratus amicis;
Non campana sonans, tonitru non ab Jove missum,
Quod mage mirandum, saltem si credere fas est,
Non clamosa meas mulier jam percutit aures.

DOCTOR: Deaf, giddy, helpless, left alone.
ANSWER: Except the first, the fault’s your own.
DOCTOR: To all my friends a burden grown.
ANSWER: Because to few you will be shewn.
Give them good wine, and meat to stuff,
You may have company enough.
DOCTOR: No more I hear my church’s bell,
Than if it rang out for my knell.
ANSWER: Then write and read, ’twill do as well.
DOCTOR: At thunder now no more I start,
Than at the rumbling of a cart.
ANSWER: Think then of thunder when you fart.
DOCTOR: Nay, what’s incredible, alack!
No more I hear a woman’s clack.
ANSWER: A woman’s clack, if I have skill,
Sounds somewhat like a throwster’s mill;
But louder than a bell, or thunder:
That does, I own, increase my wonder.

Although he lived to a good age, Swift’s final few years seem to have found him the victim of what Bewley calls, ‘terminal dementia’ (p.604).
Bewley, Thomas, The health of Jonathan Swift.  J. R. Soc. Med. 1998;91 :602-605

Bucknill JC. Dean Swift’s disease. Brain 1881;4:493-506

Forster, John, The Life of Jonathan Swift, Volume 1

The Works of the English Poets. With Prefaces, Biographical and …, Volume 40

“Edmond Searle, lately deceased, was so famous at curing all sorts of Deafness” – the Searls of Pye Corner & their Rival, Graves Overton

Hugh Dominic WStiles23 March 2018

Last year while searching for something completely different, I came across the name Margaret Searl or Searle, around 1700, in Smithfield, London.  She has a brief mention in the excellent book by C.J.S. Thompson, The Quacks of Old London (Barnes and Noble, 1993).  She was the last of her family it seems, who had carried out a business near Pye Corner, which is where the Great Fire of London ended. What we can glean from advertisements of the time, on Bills that survive and in contemporary newspapers, is that her father Edmund or Edmond, together with his nephew we must assume, Samuel, set up in business from at least 1668, ‘curing deafness.’  The first record I have come across for Edmund, is his burial on the 7th of July, 1695, at St. Sepulchre’s Church, Holborn, which is opposite the Old Bailey.  His son, Samuel, was buried in the same church on the 17th of December, 1699.

Unfortunately for Samuel’s widow Margaret, who was I assume his cousin, a former servant or apprentice of Edmund’s, Graves Overton, gave out that Margaret was dead, and that he had the secret of the deafness cure [I reproduce the text with the orthography of the original] –

WHereas Mr. Edmond Searle, lately deceased, was so famous at curing all sorts of Deafness, this is therefore to Advertise all Persons that Graves Overton, his only Servant , lives at the Hand and Ear in Pye Corner, alias Gilt-spur-street, near Newgate, where he performs the same Cures by his Masters secret Method. There being now, none of his Masters Family living but himself, that performs the said Cure. (Friday the 1st. of March, 1700, Old Bailey Records)

Another advertisement says, “Graves Overton, who Cures Deafness and is the only Surviving Servant of Mr. Edmund Searle, who was famous in that art, lives at the Hand and Ear in Pye Corner, next Giltspur Street.” (May 29, 1701)

He must have had the first advertisement for a while in 1700, as a month before that, this riposte appeared in The Post Boy (Issue 753) refering to ‘The [Old Bailey] Sessions paper’ –

This ding-dong of rivalry must have gone on for a while.  Here is the text of one of Margaret’s bills which survive –

Margaret Searl, Wife to the late Samuel Searl, Famous for Relieving and Curing deafness, Depending on any External Obstruction Of the Organ of the Ear; Who had Practised This art above Thirty Eight Years past, and Communicated the Secret to me only, who Practis’d it with him, in his Life time, for many Years, after the same Way and Method. Still living in Pye-Corner, over-against the Golden Ball, by West-Smithfield, London; (though it is Reported that I was Dead, by some Pretenders to deceive the World) where I am ready, upon any Occasion of that Nature, to serve such as apply themselves to me: Being the Surviver of my Father Edmund Searl, and late Husband Samuel Searl. Whereas several Servants of my Father Edmund Searl, have put out Bills for Curing of deafness. This is to Certifie, That neither my Father, or Husband, ever Instructed, or Communicated this Secret to any of their Servants, or any Apprentice whatsoever. (1706, 18th Century Collections Online)

When Overton’s daughter Mary was baptised, on 17/12/1693-1694, he was living with his wife Rebecca on Snow Hill, just around the corner, and they were still there when his son John was born in 1696.  Overton had married Rebecca Walserd in Temple Church, on the 25th of November, 1692.  Overton died in 1704, and was buried at St. Sepulchre’s on the 4th of March.

Poor Margaret Searl – the quacks multiplied, as they tend to, and it seems Overton was not her only rival, for in The Post Boy for January 16th, 1701, we read (with spellings accurately rendered),

WHereas Graves Overton does put out Bil’s for Curing of Deafness; This is to certify all People, that Mr. Edmund Searl declared before his death, that he never did instruct him in that Art, especially being a Turn-over to him, nor any other of his Apprentices that were bound to him, if they would have given Two hundred Pounds down, as can be Attested by several Persons. Neither did Mr. Samuel Searl ever instruct Thomas Lamb, his Brother-in-Law in Curing of Deafness, nor any thing but a Barber’s Trade, nor any other Person but his Wife, who (being the Survivor of those two famous Men) lives still at the Old House in Pye-Corner, who practis’d with her late Husband Samuel Searl in his Life-time, and now does after the same Way and Method with good success.

From this then we learn the not surprising fact that the Searls (also sometimes ‘Serle’) were barbers, the trade with which surgeons in England had a close association for 200 years.  I wonder if he had any association with St. Bartholomew’s Hospital which is right opposite Pye Corner.  At any rate, it is perhaps unfair to call them quacks as their deafness ‘cures’ were probably harmless, while a doctor of the time was far more likely to kill you.

Margaret Searl[e] was buried in St. Sepulchre’s on the 29th of March, 1709/10, and what became of the ‘cure’ we can only guess!

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1812; Reference Number: P69/SEP/A/001/MS07219/003

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), February 3, 1700 – February 6, 1700; Issue 753.

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), March 12, 1700 – March 14, 1700; Issue 769.

Post Man and the Historical Account (London, England), September 24, 1700 – September 26, 1700

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), January 14, 1701 – January 16, 1701; Issue 901.

Post Boy (1695) (London, England), May 27, 1701 – May 29, 1701; Issue 940

Title: Samuel Searl, famous for relieving and curing deafness, depending on any external obstruction of the organ of the ear; Date: 1680-1689 Reel position: Tract Supplement / E8:1[75]

Title: Margaret Searl, wife to the late Samuel Searl, famous for relieving and curing deafness, … Date: 1706 Reel position: Tract Supplement / E8:2[59]

“Deafness, like gutta serena, is sometimes produced by inordinate seminal discharges” Antoine Saissy 1756-1822

Hugh Dominic WStiles22 September 2017

Saissy FrenchBorn on the 2nd of February 1756, in Mougins, near Grasse in Provence, Jean Antoine Saissy had originally intended to become a planter, but coming across some medical books, he determined on a medical career, travelling to Paris to study (Montain, p.8ff).  He was then twenty two years old, with only a village education, combined with his own book-learning (ibid.p.9).  From 1777 to 1782 he studied under various famous professors, including Chopart and Pelletan.  He went on to serve as a physician and surgeon major with the Compagnie royale d’Afrique on the Barbary coast.  He attended to a child of the ‘Dey of Constantinople’ (possibly an error for Bey of Constantin?), who wanted him to stay.  Saissy however, returned to France, and in 1789 (the English version says 1798 which seems to be an error) defended his thesis on inoculation for small pox before the ‘Chirugical College of Lyons,’ and became a Doctor of Medicine with the University of Valence.  He married the daughter of M. Thenance, a doctor who had invented some obstetric forceps, and devoted himself to that area of medicine for a time.  In 1810 he wrote an essay on Croup, one of the first to do so.

He seems to have been a polymath, in 1811 presenting at the Institut de France a ‘memoir’ on the extraction of light by the condensation of gas.  Quite what that means I am not sure.  He also worked on a study of hibernation, with dormice and marmots (ibid p.12 -13).

It was not until the last twelve years of his life that he devoted himself to diseases of the ear.  Weir and Mudry tell us that Saissy was “the first person to propose introducing a piece of catgut into an artificial perforation of the tympanic membrane to avoid its closure.”

In his introduction to deafness, he repeats this curious form of treatment;

A Bavarian bath-keeper, mentioned by Sckinkius,* devised a singular method of curing deafness.  He plunged the patient into a warm bath, to produce turgescence in the little veins which run behind the ear.  When these were sufficiently apparent he opened them with the point of a lancet and drew a considerable quantity of blood, to the great relief of the patients on whom he practised the evacuation.  This remedy may have some success in cases of sanguineous plethora of the organ of hearing. (p.24-5)

As his 4th of 15 listed causes of deafness, Saissy says

Deafness, like gutta serena, is sometimes produced by inordinate seminal discharges.  Sylvaticus cites a remarkable instance of deafness supervening upon excessive indulgence in venereal pleasures. (p.21)

In other words, it makes you deaf as well as blind!  I suppose that he is not thinking of veneral disease, which can have those effects.

Saissy died on the 5th of March, 1822.  He seems to have been rather forgotten but is deserving of better treatment than I have space or time to give him here.

head section LaissyAbove, the only illustration in his book, a section of the head showing it is a vertical section.

As an addendum, it is interesting to note the protection of copyright notice given by the U.S.A. in the front of the English translation from Maryland.

US copyright*Schenkius, a Swiss doctor (1530-98)

Saissy, J.A., Essai sur les maladies de l’oreille interne.  Paris, (1827) [first published in a briefer essay in 1819]

Saissy, Antoine, An Essay on the Diseases of the Internal Ear.  Baltimore, (translated, 1829)

Montain, Biographic Notice, in An Essay on the Diseases of the Internal Ear, p.9-15. 

Mudry, Albert.  The tympanostomy tube: An ingenious invention of the mid 19th century.  International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology Volume 77, Issue 2, February 2013, p. 153-157

Weir, Neil, & Mudry, Albert.  Otorhinolaryngology, An Illustrated History, 2013.

 

“The patient bore the operation with great fortitude” – Lochland Shiel’s facial exostosis

Hugh Dominic WStiles28 April 2017

In Guy’s Hospital Reports for September 1836, there is an article, “Cases of exostosis of the bones of the face, disease of the cranium, and fractures of the frontal and parietal bones requiring operation, by Mr. Morgan.”   Mr. John Morgan was a pupil of Sir Astley Cooper.  Plarr’s lives of the Fellows, tells us that Morgan “showed an intense interest in natural history, and began to stuff birds and small animals almost as soon as he could use a knife and his fingers.”   We also discover there, that he dissected an elephant named ‘Chum,’ took an awful lot of snuff, and was one of the founders of the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park, now London Zoo.  His brother-in-law William Gosse who was a surgeon and was related to Philip Henry Gosse, emigrated to Australia.

The case we are looking at, Case 1. Exostosis of the Bones of the of the Face, (the notes taken by Mr. Collin), covers an unfortunate Irish labourer, Lochland Shiel, admitted on the 1st of August, 1835 (Guy’s Hospital Reports, p.403-6).  At the time he was 24 years of age.  Shiel told the doctors that until he was fifteen he had good health, when he noted a small tumor in his right nostril.  He was told by ‘a medical man’ that it was ‘of no consequence.’  However, as we can see in the plate, after nine years it had grown greatly, distorting his face,

the right nostril being enormously expanded and closed by the enlargement of the tumor, which, from its size, completely concealed the eye on that side, and extended downwards into the mouth, being there connected with the palatine and alveolar processes of the right superior maxillary bone; projecting also forwards, so as to press the lip beyond the teeth, to the extent of two inches.  The bones apparently implicated in the disease were the ossa nasi, superior maxillary bone, vomer, and the inferior turbinated and malar bones.
[…]
The poor fellow, when admitted, complained of no pain; and I could not find that his sufferings had given him much inconvenience, during the whole of his disease.The general health appeared good; but he was greatly emaciated, more, I believe, from want of proper food, than from the constitutional effects of his disorder.

Deciding that the tumor was common exostosis, an opinion in which Morgan was supported by Sir Astley Cooper and Dr. Hodgkin, he “removed the morbid excrescence” on the 6th of November.  He first made an incision over the right nostril, to ascertain that it was indeed exostosis.

A semilunar incision was then made, extending over the nostril, from the internal angle of the right eye to the centre of the the upper lip.  A similar incision was made on the outer side, commencing at the angle of the eye, and joining with the other, at the lip.  The integuments were then dissected from around the tumor, , and a metacarpal saw was used for its removal; and as it was of a spongy texture, it offered little resistance to the instrument.  No great quantity of blood was lost during the operation , the exostosis not being very vascular; and it was only found necessary to secure one  vessel, a superficial branch of the transverse facial.  all further disposition to haemorrhage was easily restrained by pressure.

After the tumor had been thus removed, the integuments were brought together by an uninterrupted suture; a dossil of lint was placed over the wound, and confined by adhesive plaster; and over all, a light bread-and-water poultice was applied.

The patient bore the operation with great fortitude; and said afterwards, that he suffered but little pain, excepting when the first incision was made.
[…]
Up to the the present time, the patient has been going on well; all discharge from the face has almost entirely ceased: hardly any exfoliation  of bone has taken place; his general health is restored.  The present appearance of his face is correctly represented in the accompanying plate.  (Guy’s Hospital Reports, 1836)

Shiel

Unfortunately I cannot locate any record of Lochland Shiel on family history records or census returns, though a Locklin Sheels married a Margaret Boyle in Newcastle-under-Lyme on the 22nd of December, 1834.  That might be him.  It could be that he was missed, it could be he spent time in Ireland, or it could be that his name has been wrongly transcribed. If you have any ideas about where in Ireland he was from, or any family, do contribute in the comments.  In the spring of 1842 Shiel died in Birmingham.

We have been unable to learn the particulars of the termination of the case. It may, however, be observed, that his death did not take place til nearly seven years after the operation; so it may fairly be said to have been prolonged by it for nearly that period. It is, however, impossible to look at the cast taken after death without marvelling that life could have been prolonged to such a period. The growth appears to have been simply enormous — larger indeed than the head itself. (Guy’s Hospital Reports, 1842)

I have been unable to find a death record for anyone of his name. Someone must have dissected his remains to make a cast of the tumor – and presumably, his skull. Below is the cast that shows the tumor.  As you can see, it had grown enormously in the following years.  The dotted line points to the tiny space through which Shiel ingested food.

Skull ShielGuy’s Hospital Reports, No 2, September 1836 p. 403-6

Guy’s Hospital Reports, No 15, October 1842 p. 491

A System of surgery v. 3, 1882, p.259

[minor updates 15/10.2018]

 

 

Voice trainer, Emil Behnke, “as accurate as Huxley and as fascinating as Faraday”

Hugh Dominic WStiles17 February 2017

BehnkeEmil Behnke (1836-1892) was born in Stettin, the son of a merchant, but became a naturalized British subject.  From around 1860 he began to study the voice, and “the physiological aspects of singing and speaking” (People, Places, and Things).  He sang baritone with an opera company, before moving to England in 1865 (Musical Herald, 1892).  He was one of the foremost voice trainers of the mid to late 19th century, in fact his obituary in The Times practically attributes the foundation of a new discipline to him:

At the age of 30 he began to lecture on “the Mechanism of the voice” under the auspices of such physiological experts as Professors Sharpey, Burdon Sanderson, M’Kendrick, and Struthers, and speedily had engagements at the foremost musical and scientific societies of the country.  So ingenious were his illustrative models and so successful was he in the application of scientific principles to the practical work of the teaching of singing, and more particularly to the restoration of voices impaired by false training, that he may be said to have established an entirely new profession, and he was universally accepted as a leading authority on all matters relating to the voice.  He was consulted by many eminent teachers of singing and worked in co-operation with leading medical specialists.

Behnke was co-author with Lennox Browne of The Child’s Voice  (1885), and Voice Song and Speech (1883).  Lennox Browne was a founder of the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, our present home, and a leading ENT surgeon.  Interestingly, The Child’s Voice, was dedicated to Sir John Stainer the musician and composer, who was of course the brother of our old friend, the Rev. William Stainer, teacher of the Deaf.  I wonder if there were connections between William Stainer and Lennox Browne or Behnke.

According to Rachel Holmes, in her biography of Eleanor Marx, Eleanor Marx: a life (2014, p.158), she says that along with John Hullah, Behnke taught the theatrical couple Hermann and Jane Elizabeth Vezin.  As a teacher and lecturer he was, according to People, Places, and Things, “as accurate as Huxley and as fascinating as Faraday.”  He had a deep knowledge of vocal physiology and anatomy, and the same article says that he was invited to lecture at UCL by Burdon Sanderson and Sharpey, and that “Professor Foster put his theatre at Behnke’s disposal.”

Behnke held ‘concerts’ or as he preferred to say, ‘open rehearsals’ using the tonic sol-fa method of singing’ that was invented in Norwich by Sarah Glover and pioneered by John Curwen, who had been a student at UCL, and whose son, music publisher John Spencer Curwen, wrote Behnke’s obituary.  The Curwen’s knew Behnke from tonic sol-fa conventions.

One former school pupil of Behnke’s said, “he saved me from being an utter cad” (The Musical Herald, Nov 1, 1892).

There is a charming reminiscence of him in The Musical Herald (1898) by ‘E.D.’:

I was a little girl at a boarding-house in Weymouth when I became the pupil of Herr Behnke.  He was not then the noted voice specialist that he afterwards became, but a dark-haired young man fresh from Germany, who had been engaged to give drawing, French, and piano lessons at Miss S—–‘s school.  Although he had been in England, I believe, only a few weeks, his English was well-nigh perfect.
[…]

“Never mind the notes,” he would say, when I was over-anxious lest my fingers should drop on the wrong keys; “Never mind the notes, keep time!

John S. Curwen, who clearly held him in very high regard, said, “He stood halfway between the doctor and the singing master” (p.293).  He died in Ostend on a holiday, when he was trying to recuperate from the illness that dogged his last years.  His friend Lennox Browne even crossed over to see if there was anything he could do to help, but Behnke died on the 17th of September, 1892, at the age of only 56 (Curwen, p.291).

His wife and his daughter Kate Emil-Behnke continued his teaching legacy, and both wrote books and updated his books.  There is much more interesting to say about the three of them, beyond the scope of this item.

The Mechanism of the Human VoiceCurwen, J Spencer. The Musical Herald; London 535, (Oct 1, 1892): 291-294

THE LATE EMIL BEHNKE.The Musical Herald; London 536 (Nov 1, 1892): 351-351.

Some Reminiscences of Emil Behnke. E D. The Musical Herald; London 598(Jan 1, 1898): 22-22.

People, Places, and Things. Hearth and Home (London, England), Thursday, October 13, 1892; pg. 716; Issue 74

The Times 19th of September 1892, p. 9

1871 Census (Curwen family) – Class: RG10; Piece: 1629; Folio: 11; Page: 13; GSU roll: 829938

[Picture from the obituary in The Musical Herald.]