Indian Medical Gazette (1866-1955)

In 1941, the British Medical Journal celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Indian Medical Gazette. Launched in 1866, the Gazette was by this point the longest-running medical journal on the subcontinent. Reflecting on the state of periodical literature in British India, the BMJ remarked that, ‘[d]uring the past century dozens of medical journals have sprung up […] and had their brief day, usually petering out after a few years and now forgotten’.[1] The Gazette was an important exception, a journal which gained a firmer foothold, running until 1955.

Indian Medical Gazette

The first issue of the IMG in January 1866.

The Gazette was a medical monthly produced in Calcutta, the capital of British India until 1911. Its content and format resembled that of its British contemporaries. It included original communications and notes from hospital practice, as well as editorials, news items, and correspondence columns. However, it was also shaped by a specifically imperialist agenda. The Gazette conceived its aim as ‘the ennobling, by every possible means, of the Medical Profession in India’ and announced its commitment to rendering ‘good [to] suffering humanity’. It drew on common tropes, portraying the Indian population as backward and debased, in need of the supposedly civilising influence of Western medicine. At the same time, it was concerned about the lack of status and prestige attached to colonial medical service.[2]  The Gazette also addressed the perceived challenges facing medical journalism in India, questioning whether the stagnation of periodical literature was due to the ‘enervating’ climate.[3]

According to the BMJ, the Gazette’s ultimate success was attributable to its longest-running editor Kenneth McLeod (1871-1892) and one of his successors, Walter Buchanan (1899-1918). Both held senior appointments in the Indian Medical Service (IMS), an institution which had its antecedents in the East India Company and which continued under Crown rule after 1858. The IMS provided both military and some civilian medical services. While the Gazette did not explicitly identify itself as an IMS publication, it was widely regarded as official in character. When the BMJ reviewed the journal in 1874, it noted that the Gazette’s editors were IMS officials and that its contributors ‘belong[ed] chiefly, although far from exclusively, to the Indian service’.[4] In a future blog post, I will examine one of the Gazette’s rivals: the Indian Medical Record. The Record accused the Gazette of receiving state subsidies and presented itself as a staunchly independent alternative.

The Gazette often imagined its readers as British-born men employed in colonial medical service. Its first issue featured an article on ‘Professional Co-operation’ which looked at the challenges facing the young medical officer upon his arrival in India. It described how he ‘may be sent at once to do battle with disease as it occurs among men whose constitutions, customs, diet, and prejudices are new and foreign to him’.[5] Like British journals, the Gazette portrayed India as a strange, unfamiliar and alien space. Many practitioners employed in the IMS and Army Medical Corps were British men who arrived in India after being trained and examined on their home soil.

This article emphasised the Gazette’s commitment to promoting sympathy between medical men and encouraging the exchange of clinical and sanitary information so that ‘[t]he service we owe to Government and India may thereby also be amplified and rendered more useful while, as a consequence, our influence in the country will be more readily acknowledged and respected’. The article noted the ‘difficulties and discouragements to professional zeal and advancement’ that were thought to characterise colonial medicine.[6] Practitioners in India were often accused of apathy and as being less industrious than their British counterparts.

The production of high-quality clinical research was seen as one way of overcoming this prejudice towards colonial medicine. Anne M. Crowther and Marguerite Dupree suggest that, from the outset, the Gazette sought to ‘prove that the IMS could contribute significantly to medical knowledge’.[7] When the BMJ reviewed the Gazette, it judged the journal chiefly in terms of its clinical content. It reassured its readers that the periodical would ‘bear a favourable comparison with contemporary journals, not only in England, but in Europe’.[8] There is a sense that Indian periodicals had to prove their worth by asserting their equality with their European counterparts.

As indicated, the Gazette was shaped by the colonial context, which included an ethnically diverse readership. The IMS had long employed indigenous peoples, chiefly (though not exclusively) in low-status positions. In 1876, the journal published a leading article reflecting on its first decade of existence. It claimed that one of its original intentions was to cement ‘a bond of union by means of which medical men working in India of whatever service or creed or race [….] should be brought together for mutual edification and improvement’.[9] This implied that both British and ‘native’ readers would be enriched in tandem and united through their shared readership of the journal.

The Gazette remarked that it received contributions from native practitioners – working in the IMS as Assistant Surgeons, Apothecaries, and Hospitals Assistants, and as private doctors – with ‘pleasure’. Bound volumes of the Gazette typically open with a list of contributors for the year, and from this it is possible to conclude that native practitioners actively supplied clinical material. The Gazette designated their communications evidence of ‘laudable ambition’ and expressed its hope that publishing such material would dispel prejudices that these men were ‘incapable of original research’ or that they were content with a ‘life of stagnation and inertness’.[10] Even more so than British men in IMS employment, practitioners of Indian, Eurasian and Anglo-Indian descent were charged with apathy.

The Gazette framed itself as the champion and supporter of men from different ethnic backgrounds but it also adopted a paternalistic approach and was often deeply patronising. The journal commended itself on ‘develop[ing] the literary industry’ of native practitioners and suggested that their contributions showed ‘the soundness of the education which they receive’. This reduced the men to passive recipients of Western medicine’s supposedly enlightening influence. Although the Gazette welcomed the way in which it could help challenge negative stereotypes, it also urged its ‘native brethren’ to ‘quicken their will and effort’ so that they could ‘entirely obliterate the stain’ against their name.[11] This loaded language hints at the prejudice faced by these readers.

The journal’s diverse readership also encompassed female practitioners. In 1882, the Gazette published an article on ‘Women Doctors for India’, which criticised the movement for medical women. The writer denied that there was any appetite for them among female patients who observed veiling or segregation. It claimed that ‘the picture of excessive obstetric and uterine suffering [in the zenanas] has been overdrawn’.[12] However, the journal’s stance softened in following years, particularly after the establishment of the National Association for Supplying Female Medical Aid to the Women of India (commonly known as the Dufferin Fund) in 1885. This formalised women’s involvement in the provision of colonial medicine. The Gazette soon overturned its objections and enthusiastically reported the achievements of medical women, as well as printing their clinical contributions.[13]

Florence Dissent article

A clinical report from Florence Dissent (December 1891).

Ultimately, the Gazette suggested that medical men and women, of both British and Indian descent, had complementary roles to play in imperial medicine’s mission. As indicated, it believed that greater professional co-operation would help to elevate the status of colonial practice. Nevertheless, the journal’s dominant editorial voice reinforced hierarchies, largely foregrounding the experiences of white men while representing non-white and female practitioners as occupying subordinate or separate roles. Thus the journal reveals both the ambitions and tensions of the colonial medical profession.

[1] ‘Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Indian Medical Gazette’, BMJ, 3 May 1941, p. 679.

[2] Mark Harrison, Public Health in British India: Anglo-Indian Preventive Medicine, 1859-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

[3] [Editorial], IMG, 1 January 1866, p. 1.

[4] ‘Review: The Indian Medical Gazette’, BMJ, 20 June 1874, pp. 808-9 (p. 808).

[5] ‘Professional Co-operation’, IMG, 1 January 1866, pp. 6-7 (p. 6).

[6] ‘Professional Co-operation’, p. 6.

[7] M. Anne Crowther and Marguerite W. Dupree, Medical Lives in the Age of Surgical Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 304.

[8] ‘Review: The Indian Medical Gazette’, BMJ, 20 June 1874, pp. 808-9 (p. 808).

[9] ‘1875’, IMG, 1 January 1876, pp. 12-23 (p. 19).

[10] ‘1875’, p. 20.

[11] ‘1875’, p. 20.

[12] ‘Women Doctors for India’, IMG, 1 July 1882, pp. 184-5 (p. 184).

[13] See, for example, Florence Dissent, ‘Mirror of Medicine: Two Cases of Large Uterine Polypus’, IMG, December 1891, p. 334.

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Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Trinity Term 2018

tringquaggaMonday 7 May 2018 (Week 3)

Professor Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Gone but not Forgotten:  Coming to Grips with Extinction

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Extinction is a timely and controversial topic now, as it has been for centuries.  That is not, of course, to say that the focus of contention has remained constant.  At first the main question, couched at least as much in theological as in scientific terms (that is, in terms resonant with later debates about evolution), was whether it could happen.   Localized anthropogenic extinctions, most famously that of the dodo, were noticed by European travelers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (the intentional extermination of undesirable animals like wolves at home did not figure in such debates).  The dwindling and disappearance of more populous and widespread species, including the passenger pigeon, the quagga, and (nearly) the American bison, in the nineteenth century sparked a different kind of concern among the overlapping communities of hunters, naturalists, and conservationists, which helped to inspire the earliest national parks and wildlife reserves.

Tuesday 22 May 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Carolyn Burdett, Birkbeck, University of London

Sympathy limits in Daniel Deronda

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

From the 1860s sympathy emerged as a key term in naturalistic dispute about mechanisms of evolution and the relation of human to animal life. This paper argues that we need to look closely at these debates in order to have a fuller account of the role sympathy played in the ethical and artistic changes of the ‘end’ of Victorianism. Sympathy’s part in its own vanishing conditions during the final three decades of the nineteenth century has not yet been fully explained. As literary historians invariably turn to George Eliot to help grasp the scope and power of secular modern sympathy, I go to her final novel, Daniel Deronda, to find insight about its waning. While sympathy is explicitly referenced on more occasions in Daniel Deronda than in any other of Eliot’s fictions, many readers have noted profound changes that propel the narrative simultaneously beyond both sympathy and realism. Might sympathy, paradoxically, be a key to grasping why Eliot’s last novel is full of terror and dread, magic and divination, Gothicism and melodrama? I conclude by briefly suggesting that sympathy in the final decades of the nineteenth century is part of the same nexus of concepts that produce a new term, empathy, seen by some in the twenty-first century to have largely replaced sympathy in referencing affective and ethical capacity.

Tuesday 5 June 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Manon Mathias, University of Glasgow

 ‘What is health? It is chocolate!’: Chocolate, medicine, and writing

in nineteenth-century France

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Although France’s role in the development of chocolate from an Early Modern luxury to a popular product has been noted, nowhere has the French engagement with chocolate as medicine been examined in any depth. Moreover, the numerous literary engagements with this product in nineteenth-century novels remain unexplored. Taking up the call issued by the Chocolate History Project (UC Davis) for more research on chocolate in literature and in cookbooks, this paper will examine references to chocolate in scientific and medical texts from the period but also in gastronomic texts and novels to see to what extent principles regarding chocolate reached beyond the medical field, and also to reveal the rich and complex relations between chocolate and language.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking required.

The Weekly Entomologist (1862-63)

After five years of publication, the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer was discontinued in 1861. The editor, Henry Tibbats Stainton (1822-92), seems to have lost patience with the considerable workload of producing a new issue each week, and took this unpopular decision at the conclusion of the tenth volume. Insect collectors who had grown accustomed to their ‘newspaper’ were understandably bereft, and there was much discussion as to whom could step in to fill the void. In 1862, a new periodical was announced, entitled the Weekly Entomologist. This journal was printed on behalf of the Altrincham and Bowden Entomological Society, in Cheshire. The title of this group suggests a large gathering of men, but in fact, the Society consisted of three schoolboys: the brothers Thomas and John Blackburn (1844-1912 and 1845-81), and their friend Edmund Geldart (1844-85). All had been avid readers of the Intelligencer, and had sent several letters regarding their insect-hunting to Stainton in the hope of publication. When Stainton discontinued the Intelligencer, his three youthful correspondents took it upon themselves to supply a replacement.

The Weekly Entomologist was almost identical to the Intelligencer in appearance and content. The first editorial was entitled ‘Union is Strength’, and implored its readers to participate ‘in a friendly spirit’, without descending to the acrimony and in-fighting that  had plagued the Intelligencer. Many of the same correspondents who had featured in Stainton’s periodical now published in the new weekly, giving details of the insects they had captured and lists of those they wished to exchange. The focus remained predominantly on the practical aspects of collecting, rather than lengthy scientific papers of taxonomic classification. Another leading article angrily criticised the recently passed Poaching Prevention Act, as this permitted the arrest of anyone found loitering suspiciously upon land set aside for the hunting of game. Entomologists would often fall foul of gamekeepers, as the pursuit of moths in particular necessitated nocturnal visits to woods and fields, armed with nets and other equipment,  which understandably aroused suspicion among those charged with the protection of such land. The editor urged entomologists to join ‘hand in hand against our common foes’, lest they be prevented from collecting insects entirely by the action of ‘aristocrats’. He also attacked ‘the railway capitalists, the farmer, the builder, the agriculturalist’ – all those who wished to ‘do away with the existence of insects’.

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Title page for the second number of the Weekly Entomologist

Lacking the independent wealth with which Stainton funded the Intelligencer, the three schoolboys applied to the erstwhile editor for financial aid, and at first he was happy to oblige. However, the Weekly Entomologist struggled from the outset, failing to attract sufficient support from those who had previously read the Intelligencer. Furthermore, the production values of the periodical were much lower, with frequent errors in printing. Edmund Geldart, who would later recall his time editing the Weekly Entomologist alongside the Blackburn brothers in his memoir, A Son of Belial (1882), asserted that the local printer deliberately inserted these ‘mistakes’ in protest against insufficient payment. In one instance, a sentence on the subject of perseverance which should have read ‘the goal is always before you’, was instead printed as ‘the gaol [jail] is always before you’, significantly altering the meaning of the sentence. Ultimately, Stainton withdrew his support for the Weekly Entomologist, and it folded. Thomas Blackburn continued to correspond with Stainton, and upon moving to London, he collaborated with a number of other leading entomologist’s in establishing and editing the Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine in 1864. After a brief stint in the civil service, he took holy orders and was ordained as a priest, and ended his career as a canon in Australia. He maintained his interest in entomology, amassing a large collection of beetles that are now held by the Natural History Museum, London. John Blackburn also worked in the civil service, and continued to collect insects during the long holidays this afforded him. Geldart seems to have lost his interest in entomology, and had a varied career as a teacher, an Anglican priest, and (after undergoing a conversion) a Unitarian minister.

 

Jukes de Styrap (1815-99): medical practitioner and ethicist

I first encountered Jukes de Styrap as the author of The Young Practitioner (1890) – an advice guide for aspiring medical men – when I was researching the early struggles in practice. De Styrap has primarily gained recognition among historians of medicine as one of the major commentators on medical ethics in the nineteenth century. In this blog post, I reveal how he established himself as a spokesperson on a constellation of issues surrounding the pecuniary, social and professional aspects of medical life.

Born in 1815, de Styrap was educated at Shrewsbury School in Shropshire and later at Stourport in Worcestershire. He studied medicine at King’s College London. Like many general practitioners at the time, he was jointly licensed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Society of Apothecaries. He practised in Ireland during the 1830s and 40s, later becoming a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland as well. He then returned to his roots, setting up practice in Shrewsbury. Here he held appointments at the Salop Infirmary and South Salop and Montgomeryshire Infirmary. He founded the Salopian Medico-Ethical Society and acted as its secretary. The Society was subsumed into the Shropshire Branch of the British Medical Association (BMA), on which de Styrap also sat, becoming its President. In 1864, he suffered a severe illness and retired from clinical practice shortly after, standing down as Consulting Physician at the Salop Infirmary.

During his retirement, de Styrap remained actively involved in professional affairs. Firstly, he published The Medico-Chirurgical Tariffs (1874), which supplied practitioners with a recommended fee scale for a range of cases, including those involving advice, medicines, and surgical procedures (from reducing fractures to excising tumours). The guide divided patients into three classes, suggesting that their fee should depend on the cost of their house rental. Thus the recommended price of an ‘ordinary visit’ might range from two shillings sixpence (for the poorest class) to ten shillings sixpence (for the richest). De Styrap advised that night visits (defined as those between 10pm and 7am) be charged at double the ordinary rate (at least).[1] Immediately popular, the Tariffs was translated into French and went into four editions by 1888. The BMJ branded it ‘absolutely reliable’ and suggested it was a valuable reference guide for both younger and more experienced practitioners.[2]

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A table of medical fees from de Styrap’s Tariffs (1874).

Four years later, de Styrap published A Code of Medical Ethics (1878), which he originally prepared for the Shropshire Ethical Branch of the BMA. The book has since been identified as ‘the only important code of medical ethics to be published in Victorian England’.[3] It drew largely on the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics (1847), which had already circulated in Britain.[4] However, de Styrap’s reworking also included original introductory material, in which he represented medicine as a ‘sacred’ calling.[5] The AMA’s code was itself based on Thomas Percival’s landmark Medical Ethics (1803), which combined precepts about good conduct with advice on medical jurisprudence.[6]

De Styrap’s hope that the Code would be officially adopted by the BMA was never realised, but – like the Tariffs – it was well-received by the medical community. The BMJ suggested the Code would be valuable for all medical men to ‘habitually refer’ to and praised its ‘stately and old-fashioned […] diction’ which it felt bolstered its authority.[7] The Code was reproduced and enlarged in 1886, 1890 and 1895.

At the age of 75 and with his reputation already well-established, de Styrap published The Young Practitioner (1890). Once again, he drew extensively on existing sources. The book is almost a direct reproduction of Daniel Webster Cathell’s popular American manual Book on the Physician Himself (1881). De Styrap conceded that his book was largely derivative, and framed it as offering ‘modified selections from’ and ‘additions to’ Cathell’s guide.[8]  De Styrap’s major innovations were to adjust the tenets to reflect the context of British general practice and to reframe the advice into a direct address to young practitioners.

Like its ur-text, The Young Practitioner offered advice to medical men seeking to establish themselves in practice. It counselled readers on everything from their dress sense to the arrangement of their consulting-room, their bedside manner to methods for securing payment from reluctant patients. For de Styrap, medical ethics encompassed not simply moral or legal imperatives but one’s manners and behaviour in both social and professional life. Like Cathell, he approached the business side of medical with candour. De Styrap had long been interested in both pecuniary matters and medical ethics, as his earlier works testify. He saw no tension between these different facets of practice; like Cathell, he contended that the business side of medicine, if conducted fairly, was compatible with a respectable and gentlemanly profession.

Once again, de Styrap’s work was praised by contemporary medical journals. It was regarded as an important contribution to medical ethics rather than a product of plagiarism. The Edinburgh Medical Journal fleetingly mentioned de Styrap’s debt to Cathell but enthusiastically praised his emphasis on gentlemanly conduct.[9] The BMJ remarked that,

[t]he standards which [de Styrap] sets up for our conduct towards the public and towards each other is perhaps almost too high; but though it may be beyond the attainment of all men at all times, yet it is well that the standard would be put high.[10]

Following the publication of The Young Practitioner, de Styrap was increasingly confined to his home in Shrewsbury due to ill-health. He died there at the age of 84 in 1899. Announcing his death, the Lancet credited him as the ‘well-known author of “A Code of Medical Ethics”’.[11] A longer obituary in the BMJ described how this guide had ‘been of great assistance to the profession’.[12] Over the years both journals had recommended the book to correspondents who asked for a reference guide on medical ethics.[13] Meanwhile, the BMA adopted a resolution expressing ‘great regret’ at de Styrap’s death and acknowledging his ‘long connection with the Association and the interest he took in raising a high standard of professional duty’.[14] De Styrap’s career demonstrates how a medical man could develop his professional identity through his writing even after stepping back from active practice.

Questions of originality and authorship perhaps trouble us more than de Styrap’s contemporary readers, who recognised him as making an important contribution to the profession. His high-minded tone and attention to detail were well-respected and his commitment to setting and elevating standards was seen as crucial to regulating professional life. As historians have identified, de Styrap borrowed the language and recycled the tenets of earlier medical ethicists. This approach, and the enthusiastic reception of his work, reveal how ideas about good medical conduct remained remarkably stable for much of the nineteenth century.

[1] Jukes de Styrap, The Medico-Chirurgical Tariffs Issued by the Shropshire Ethical Branch of the British Medical Association (Shrewsbury: William Wardle, 1874), p. 7.

[2] ‘Reviews and Notices: The Medico-Chirurgical Tariffs’, BMJ, 14 April 1888, p. 804.

[3] Peter Bartrip, ‘An Introduction to Jukes Styrap’s A Code of Medical Ethics (1878)’, in The Codification of Medical Morality: Vol. 2, ed. by Robert Baker (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1995), pp. 145-8 (p. 145).

[4] Code of Ethics of the American Medical Association (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1849).

[5] De Styrap, A Code of Medical Ethics (London: Churchill, 1878), p. 6.

[6] Thomas Percival, Medical Ethics (Manchester: Bickerstaff, 1803).

[7] ‘Notes on Books: A Code of Medical Ethics’, BMJ, 30 January 1886, p. 213.

[8] De Styrap, The Young Practitioner (London: H.K. Lewis, 1890), p. i.

[9] ‘Reviews: The Young Practitioner’, Edinburgh Medical Journal, March 1890, p. 854.

[10] ‘Review: The Young Practitioner’, BMJ, 13 September 1890, pp. 632-3 (p. 633).

[11] [Untitled], Lancet, 15 April 1899, p. 1047.

[12] ‘Obituary: Jukes de Styrap’, BMJ, 6 May 1899, pp. 1130-1 (p. 1131).

[13] See, for example, ‘Medico-Legal and Medico-Ethical: Work on Medical Ethics’, BMJ, 26 February 1887, p. 486.

[14] [Untitled], BMJ, 15 April 1899, p. 928.

New Podcast Episode: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in the 19th Century

A new episode of The Conversationalist podcast is available today! In this episode, Dr Sally Frampton (ConSciCom, University of Oxford) and Dr Oskar Cox Jenson (Queen Mary University of London) discuss vaccination and the anti-vax movement in the 19th century. Warning: this episode features some catchy anti-vax songs you’ll have trouble getting out of your head.

 

For more, scroll down to hear longer versions of the anti-vax songs in the episode, view 19th century satirical cartoons related to the anti-vax movement, and read about our exhibition Vaccination: Medicine and the Masses in this blog post.

Longer versions of the anti-vaccination songs featured in this episode:

 

Anti-vaccination illustrations and cartoons:

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The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Lantern slide, early 1900s. https://www.flickr.com/photos/collegeofphysicians/4167524518

 

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A monster being fed baskets of infants and excreting them with horns; symbolising vaccination and its effects. Etching by C. Williams, 1802?. Wellcome Images. https://wellcomecollection.org/works/aehkf98b

 

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Jenner and his two colleagues seeing off three anti-vaccination opponents, the dead are littered at their feet. Coloured etching by I. Cruikshank, 1808. Wellcome Images. https://wellcomecollection.org/works/j59k7jnk

The Substitute (1856-57)

The first volume of the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer ended in September 1856, having begun in April that year. Henry Tibbats Stainton (1856-90), who had established and edited this periodical, did not believe that such a publication was required during the winter months, as most entomologists ceased to collect at this time. There would no longer be any  information to share regarding the capture of insects, as the majority of species were only active during the warmer months. The Intelligencer therefore ‘hibernated’ until the following April, when the collecting ‘season’ would recommence.  However, such was the popularity Stainton’s periodical had gained in this short time that a plan was put in place to fill this temporary void with another publication, and thus the Substitute was created.

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Title for the Substitute‘s first issue

The editor of the Substitute was John William Douglas (1814-1905), a long-term friend of Stainton’s, and it was printed by Edward Newman (1801-1876). The periodical’s title was a play on words, as the Substitute was both a replacement (or ‘substitute’) for the Intelligencer, and also an ‘entomological exchange facilitator’. Collectors were not entirely idle during the winter months, but instead used this time to consolidate their collections by identifying and preparing specimens for display. Often they had taken multiples of a particular species, and through the periodical they could advertise to ‘substitute’ these ‘duplicates’ for others. Typically, a correspondent would write a list of the insects they wished to exchange, along with their address, and readers could then peruse these notices and respond to those who possessed the insects they desired. Douglas declared ‘the trouble is not much; it need only be done once, and we shall thus be the “Substitute” for lots of letters’.

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Extract from a poem entitled ‘Beetling for Beginners’, describing the different families of Coleoptera

The Substitute also described itself as an ‘entomologist’s fire-side companion’, publishing interesting or entertaining articles to amuse its readers as they remained indoors during the inclement weather. In this spirit, it published picaresque accounts of ‘entomological rambles’ taken in the summer months. Roland Trimen, seventeen years old and with a feted scientific career ahead of him, contributed a florid account of such a trip to the Isle of Wight, which conveys a sense of breathless excitement in the pursuit of Lepidoptera: ‘Here comes something! […] A jump and a twist of the net! We’ve got him!’. Poetry – entomological in theme, of course – also featured. Newman and Douglas both turned their hands to writing verse, usually doggerel in style, and the Substitute printed a number of these. A representative example is ‘The Hymenoptera Described’, which gives an exhaustive description of how to identify members of this insect family. The poem therefore served the dual purpose of entertaining and informing the readers.

In future years, Stainton found that there was ample material to ensure the Intelligencer could be continued over the winter months. The ongoing popularity of specimen exchange provided more than enough letters to publish, and entomologists developed new techniques for collecting hibernating insects (usually by digging them up), thereby allowing collectors to continue their activities throughout the year.

‘Wholesale poisoning by hot cross-buns’ and bizarre murders of medical men

This post is contributed by Professor Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford).

As you bite into your delicious hot cross-bun this Easter, spare a thought for the inhabitants of Inverness in 1882, who were subjected to ‘whole-sale poisoning by hot cross-buns’, with over 140 worthy citizens and children affected.[1]   The Glasgow Herald reported on Easter Saturday that,

‘Good Friday of 1882 is not likely to be forgotten in Inverness….In the forenoon whole families were suddenly seized with a severe and serious illness, and the town doctors were soon in great demand.  The illness manifested itself at first as a rule with giddiness and pain in the neck and limbs.  The giddiness was in every case followed by severe illness and vomiting….Families here and there were prostrate, and school children were suddenly seized with sickness and were dropping in a helpless condition on the ground.[2]

A subsequent medical enquiry pointed the finger at the spice in the buns as the agent of poison.[3]   I picked up this item of news from the Lancet, April 22, in 1822, amidst a larger item on the insanitary conditions of bread-making in London, including one establishment where bread tins were placed over an open sewer to cool.   Not to be recommended!

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“Hot Cross-Buns!” from Illustrated London News, 1861.

One of the delights of reading nineteenth-century periodicals is that of sheer serendipity – you never know what you will encounter next.  This item on hot-cross buns came from a section in the Lancet called  ‘Annotations’ which gives a round-up of medically-related news and is a wonderful way of exploring the goings-on and concerns of the time.  For the Diseases of Modern Life team, this particular day is a treasure trove capturing many of the issues we are exploring, from public and occupational health through to education, and the problems of drink and drug taking.    The latter figures largely, with items on ‘The Curse of Chloral’, on Dante Rossetti’s death from this new drug; ‘Another Warning against the Use of Narcotics’ on an over-worked doctor who died from an accidental overdose of morphia which he took to get to sleep; and ‘Grocers’ Licences and Secret Drinking’, which highlighted an issue Jennifer Wallis has explored, on anxieties about alcohol licenses for grocers’ premises unleashing a wave of secret female drinking:  ‘To no other members of the body politic is it so well known as to the members of our profession how the secret evils to health and morality springing from the license increase the mischievous and dangerous results from alcoholic indulgence, especially amongst the female section of the community’.   The prospect that the respectable activity of grocery shopping could become a cover for illicit female drinking was clearly alarming.

Occupational health was covered by an item on demonstrations by shop assistants for shorter hours:  the journal supported the general aim, but disapproved of ‘mixed gatherings in Trafalgar–square’ – women breaking decorum again, and disturbing public peace.   The item on education addressed the issue of the day, ‘Cramming and Forcing School Children’, expressing yet again the journal’s opposition to the excessive cramming and examining of the young: ‘It is perfectly well known to everybody who has taken the trouble to study the system of teaching and training for results – the inevitable consequence of the competition and examination mania – that education is a misnomer for the method of tuition too generally employed’.   I would recommend this section to our current Secretary of State for Education as some Easter reading, while munching a hot-cross bun.

By far the most bizarre item in these ‘Annotations’ comes in under the bland title, ‘A Strange Story’.   It recounts ‘an extraordinary plot to murder a number of medical men in Berlin’.   The plot was discovered when two accomplices went to the police.   The idea was to hire rooms in various parts of town, and summon a doctor under the pretence of illness ‘and then to murder him by means of a strangling instrument’.   The instrument, which the perpetrator had spent two years devising, based on ‘an old-fashioned instrument of torture preserved in one of the museums of the city’ is described in gruesome detail.   Even more bizarrely, the police allowed the plot to go ahead, hiding in an adjoining room and dressing up one of their number as the intended victim, Dr Lehrs.  They only intervened when the ‘half-strangled man’ knocked on the floor to summon aid.   If it were not for the fact that this tale pre-dates the Sherlock Holmes stories by eleven years, I would have been tempted to think that the police had been consuming too much detective fiction.  I had always assumed that the elaborate dramas of enticement, so beloved of crime writers, largely belonged to the fictional domain.  Now I am not so sure.

Happy Easter everyone, but beware of over-indulgence, whether of hot-cross buns, alcohol (or other stimulants), or television crime dramas!

 

 

[1]  ‘Annotations’, Lancet April 22, 1882, 657-664, p. 661.   See also ‘The Poisoning by Hot Cross Buns’, Morning Post, Monday, April 10, 1882, p. 6.

[2]   ‘Alarming Occurrence in Inverness’, Glasgow Herald, Saturday April 8, 1882; also ‘The Poisoning Case in Inverness’, Glasgow Herald, Monday April 10, 1882, where the original estimate of 100 cases goes up to 140.

[3]   ‘Poisonous Hot-Cross Buns’, August 12, 1882, p. 284.

Kenneth William Millican (1853-1915): medical practitioner and journalist

In an earlier blog post, I profiled the Midland Medical Miscellany, a proudly provincial medical journal which was conducted by Kenneth William Millican. As editor, he framed himself as a spokesperson for ordinary provincial practitioners. Yet he went on to have a peripatetic and cosmopolitan career, as this post reveals.

Millican was born in Leicester in relatively prosperous circumstances. His father William was an architect, a member of the Conservative Party, and a colonel in the Volunteers. The young Millican was educated at Atherstone Grammar School in Warwickshire, and later Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated with honours in the classical tripos. He then entered St Mary’s Hospital in London with a natural science scholarship. During his medical training, some of his case notes were printed in the Lancet and the BMJ; early glimmers of his interest in medical journalism.[1] In 1879 Millican took the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) and a year later he became a licentiate of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.[2]

Despite his reasonably illustrious education, Millican’s medical career had humble beginnings. He worked as a ship’s surgeon for the Ocean Steamship Company. Openings such as these provided immediate paid work, but they were widely considered to be temporary situations for young men rather than a long-term career choice. In The Student’s Guide to the Medical Profession (1878), Charles Bell Keetley suggested that a sea voyage might restore the constitution of young men exhausted by their medical education, but warned that more than a year at sea would be ‘demoralising’ and might drive a man to drink.[3]

Kineton_Village_Centre

Kineton Village, where Millican practised (Credit: Arlo 715, Creative Commons).

Following his brief time at sea, Millican soon settled as a general practitioner in Kineton, a village in Warwickshire not far from where he went to school. It was common for newly qualified medical men to return to their roots, since they could use their family’s local connections and standing to attract patients.

At the outset of his practice, Millican launched the Midland Medical Miscellany, which he edited from 1881-5. The journal sought to represent ordinary provincial practitioners, implying that they were excluded from the mainstream medical press. Yet Millican was simultaneously a prolific contributor to journals such as the Lancet and the BMJ. He offered them observations from his practice, commenting on subjects as varied as fracture of the leg,[4] the relief of toothache,[5] and treatment for facial neuralgia.[6] He was also active in local medical societies. In 1882, he showed samples of bacilli from cases of diarrhoea to the Midland Medical Society.[7] Millican’s efforts to make a name for himself were rewarded. The Lancet’s overview of medical activity in 1882 namechecked Millican as having advanced the therapeutics of intestinal obstruction.[8]

One of Millican’s principal medical interests at this time was the ‘germ theory’ of disease. In 1882, he presented a paper on ‘The Etiology of the Acute Specific Diseases’ to the section on public medicine at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association (BMA). Drawing on his own experiences and championing the interests of the provincial practitioner, he argued that the aetiology of infectious diseases was much easier to trace in rural districts. While endorsing the germ theory of disease, Millican maintained that – from his observation – some infectious diseases (such as scarlet fever) could materialise de novo and that these ‘self-originating’ cases were more likely to present atypically.[9] A year later, he produced a book on The Evolution of Morbid Germs (1883). His obituary in the Lancet would commend the volume for its ‘remarkable foresight’ in applying ‘Darwinian doctrines’ to disease.[10]

Millican not only commented on clinical matters, but a range of issues surrounding professional life. In 1883, for example, he complained to the BMJ that his paper had been ‘crowded out’ at a sectional meeting of the BMA due to poor scheduling and overrunning presentations from more senior colleagues.[11] In 1884, he criticised the opening hours of the RCS’s library and museum in a letter to the Lancet. He suggested that early closing was ‘prohibitive’ for ‘juniors’ who spent their days engaged in study and tuition.[12] In letters such as these, Millican represented himself as industrious but overlooked. Though he succeeded in getting his name into print, he seemed to identify with the portrait of the hard-working and unappreciated general practitioner which he put forward in the Miscellany.

In the mid- to late-nineteenth century, enterprising medical men often abandoned provincial general practice to pursue specialist medicine in the metropolis and Millican’s career followed this trajectory. After his time in Warwickshire, he set himself up as a specialist in throat diseases in Wellbeck Street, London. In 1887, he was appointed as surgeon to the Margaret Street Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest and Throat, where he specialised as a laryngologist.[13] He also worked as surgeon to the West End Hospital for Paralysis and the Throat Department of the Queen’s Jubilee Hospital in Queen’s Gate, South West London.[14] Though popular with patients, some professionals regarded specialties as self-serving and akin to quackery.[15] In 1887, Millican wrote to the Lancet to reject claims he was a homeopath and to staunchly defend his status as a regular, rational practitioner. Nevertheless, he highlighted his indebtedness to certain homeopathic practitioners and the drugs they had introduced. [16]

Despite his apparently dogged determination to advance his medical career, Millican also pursued other interests. While in London, he produced two volumes of verse – ‘Smoke Clouds’ (co-written with Dr A.B. Clarke) and ‘Passion Spray’. Millican’s obituary in the Lancet remarked on his display of ‘literary capacity’, noting that he showed ‘considerable command of metre’. It also commented on his theatrical interests. In 1887, he had helped to produce a domestic drama, Fettered Freedom, at the Vaudeville, and he was also known as an amateur actor. Like his father, Millican took up voluntary military service as well, serving as Captain in the 9th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. His obituary remarked that he was ‘a thoroughgoing soldier in spirit’ and ‘an authority on military administration’.[17]

California Mines

Gold mining in California (Wellcome Images)

After about five years working as a specialist in London, Millican left the country in 1892. He was hired as a surgeon by the British and Foreign Steam Navigation Company, and subsequently became medical officer to mining works in Mexico. Three years later he resigned this post for an appointment with the Mountain Copper Mines in California, where he worked until 1897.

Once established in America, Millican pursued a career as a medical editor and journalist. In 1897/8 (reports vary), he became associate editor of the New York Medical Journal and in 1904 he assumed ‘editorship and entire charge’ of the St Louis Medical Review.[18] Two years later, the BMJ recorded him participating in a meeting of the American Medical Editors’ Association. He voiced his opinion that not all medical advertising should be decried, but that greater honesty was needed.[19] In 1907, the BMJ remarked that the St Louis Medical Review had become ‘one of the most readable of the American journals’ under Millican’s ‘able editorship’, but that it was shifting from weekly to monthly publication.[20] By this time, however, Millican had joined the editorial staff of the Journal of the American Medical Association. His journalistic activities were tracked in the British professional press, which avidly followed the progress of medical journalism on the other side of the Atlantic.

Obituary Millican

Millican’s obituary in the BMJ

In 1911, Millican became Assistant Editor of the Lancet, joining the journal he had once covertly attacked through the Miscellany. Millican’s first outing as an editor was not even mentioned in his obituaries. Perhaps the Miscellany (which folded in 1895) had already faded into relatively obscurity, though the Lancet subsequently printed a follow-up note to say that the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain’s librarian had pointed out their oversight.[21]

Millican died on 28 November 1915, the day after his 62nd birthday; his obituaries reported that he had been ill with heart trouble for some time. Married twice, he left a grown-up son and daughter from his first marriage (both had settled in the United States), and a 12-year-old daughter from his second wife, who survived him.[22]

Millican seems to have been enterprising, energetic and industrious and his working life illustrates the mobility of medical men in this period.  In its obituary of Millican, the Lancet reflected on his meandering career path. It quoted a letter from his friends, which described him as ‘a man of singularly versatile and varied talent; so versatile, indeed, that it probably operated against his obtaining a great success in any one direction’.[23] Nevertheless, his patchwork career saw him ascend the proverbial ladder and secure recognition for his medical journalism.

Millican’s visibility in the medical press allows us to put together a detailed portrait of his career. He supplied clinical communications and correspondence to the leading professional journals, conducted his own periodical, and joined the editorial teams of high-profile journals. His journalistic endeavours were recorded in ‘Literary Notes’ and finally in his obituaries. Reading across these different forms of content in the medical press enables researchers to re-construct medical careers of the past.

[1] ‘A Mirror of Hospital Practice, British and Foreign: St Mary’s Hospital’, Lancet, 19 July 1879, pp. 80-1. ‘Reports of Medical and Surgical Practice in the Hospitals and Asylums of Great Britain and Ireland’, BMJ, 19 July 1879, p. 87.

[2] ‘Obituary: Kenneth William Millican’, BMJ, 11 December 1915, p. 878.

[3] Charles Bell Keetley, The Student’s Guide to the Medical Profession (London: Macmillan, 1878), pp. 29-30.

[4] Kenneth W. Millican, ‘Surgical Memoranda: Fracture of the Leg’, BMJ, 20 May 1882, p. 738.

[5] Millican, ‘Letters, Notes, and Answers to Correspondents: The Relief of Toothache’, BMJ, 1 September 1883, p. 455.

[6] Millican, ‘Correspondence: Gelseminum in Facial Neuralgia’, BMJ, 26 March 1881, p. 490.

[7] ‘Midland Medical Society’, Lancet, 23 December 1882, pp. 1078-9 (p. 1078).

[8] ‘The Annus Medicus 1882’, Lancet, 30 December 1882, pp. 1119-31 (p. 1122).

[9] ‘The Etiology of the Acute Specific Diseases’, BMJ, 30 September 1882, pp. 629-31.

[10] ‘Obituary: Kenneth William Millican’, Lancet, 11 December 1915, pp. 1319-20 (p. 1319).

[11] ‘Correspondence: The Sectional Meetings: A Grievance’, BMJ, 11 August 1883, p. 299.

[12] Millican, ‘Notes, Short Comments, and Answers to Correspondents: The Library of the College of Surgeons’, Lancet, 22 November 1884, p. 941.

[13] ‘Margaret Street Infirmary’, BMJ, 9 April 1887, p. 797.

[14] ‘Medical News: Medical Appointments’, BMJ, 16 April 1887, pp. 859-60 (p. 859).

[15] See Lindsay Granshaw, ‘ “Fame and Fortune by Means of Bricks and Mortar”: The Medical Profession and Specialist Hospitals in Britain 1800-1948’, in The Hospital in History, ed. by Granshaw and Roy Porter (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 199-220.

[16] ‘Correspondence: [Untitled]’, Lancet, 23 April 1887, p. 849.

[17] ‘Obituary’, Lancet, 11 December 1915, p. 1319.

[18] ‘Literary Notes’, BMJ, 24 September 1904, pp. 761-3 (p. 762).

[19] ‘Medical News: The American Medical Editors’ Association’, BMJ, 30 June 1906, p. 1547.

[20] ‘Literary Notes’, BMJ, 27 July 1907, pp. 213-14 (p. 213).

[21] ‘Obituary’, Lancet, 18 December 1915, p. 1372-3 (p. 1372).

[22] ‘Obituary’, Lancet, 11 December 1915, p. 1320.

[23] ‘Obituary’, Lancet, 11 December 1915, p. 1319.

 

 

Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer (1856-61)

‘Why do entomologists need a weekly newspaper?’ asked the very first number of the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer in April 1856. This periodical was the work of one man, Henry Tibbats Stainton (1822-91), who ran the Intelligencer at his own expense and acted as the sole editor. The bulk of each issue was devoted to short notices written by correspondents, detailing the insects they had captured and giving exact information regarding the species, appearance, the date, weather conditions, and collecting methods used. In this way, it operated in much the same way as a private correspondence network, though on a much larger scale, with a readership of around 600 at its peak. Insect populations are inherently transitory, varying from week to week – and even day to day – depending on climatic conditions and a host of other factors. Rapid communication between collectors is therefore of paramount importance, and the Intelligencer aimed to provide a means by which entomologists could keep abreast of each other’s activity. Stainton hoped that the quick exchange of information among collectors would allow each individual to work with increased efficiency, completing more work in a single season than had hitherto been possible in two or three.

Insect collecting was widespread hobby among nineteenth-century society.  The readers of the Intelligencer were diverse in terms of class, if not in gender. Stainton himself remarked that no women wrote to the periodical, despite the many women who actively participated in entomology during this period. Costing just a single penny per issue, correspondents to the Intelligencer ranged from working-class collectors, such as the Sheffield razor grinder, James Batty, to gentleman naturalists such as Charles Darwin and John Lubbock. Darwin made use of the periodical on a number of occasions, first enquiring about the pollination of British orchids by certain moth species, but also playfully writing a letter on behalf of his children. This note read: ‘we three very young collectors have lately taken, in the parish of Down, six miles from Bromley, Kent, the following beetles’, and was signed in the names of Francis, Leonard, and Horace Darwin. Francis would later fondly recall this incident in an edited collection of his father’s correspondence.

Darwin Children, Intelligencer, 6, p. 99.

Charles Darwin’s letter to the Intelligencer, written on behalf of his three sons.

Each issue of the Intelligencer consisted of eight pages, and could easily have fitted into a pocket and been taken into the field on a collecting trip. The periodical rarely contained illustrations, as these would have driven up the cost of production, but occasionally woodcuts were included to aid insect identification. For example, the issue for 2nd May 1857 contains an image of Gastropacha ilicifolia – the small lappet moth – which ‘at rest looks amazingly like a dead leaf’. This species is now considered to be extinct in Britain, but at the time of the Intelligencer‘s publication, it could be found by attentive entomologists on ‘Cannoch Chase and the Northern Moors’. The adults emerge during late April and early May, hence why Stainton chose to publish the illustration at this time, thereby training his readers to be observant. He notes that the ‘varied fringes’ of the wings ‘ought to catch the eye of the keen collector: dead and withered leaves are not often marked with such regularity’. The periodical was therefore closely tied to the practices of natural history, with the form and content shaped by such seasonal variations.

Intelligencer pic

A woodcut of the ‘Small Lappet’ moth on the title page of the Intelligencer.

The Intelligencer also facilitated the exchange of specimens, as collectors could place adverts listing the insects they had collected in abundance, and were therefore willing to swap for others. Such a system was open to abuse, and this led to acrimonious debates among readers who felt they had been defrauded of their hard-won specimens. This controversy, along with the strain of single-handedly producing an issue a week, may have been among the reasons Stainton chose to discontinue the Intelligencer after only five years. Despite its short lifespan, Stainton’s periodical left a considerable void in the periodical market, and there were various attempts to replace it. For example, Thomas Blackburn, a teenager who had first begun to correspond with Stainton through the Intelligencer, began his own (almost identical) periodical entitled the Weekly Entomologist (1861-63).

exchange intelligencer

A typical exchange advertisement published in the Intelligencer.

The Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer exemplifies how a periodical could bring into being a community of naturalists, despite the many differences between the various readers and correspondents. Those who contributed to the periodical embodied the whole spectrum of nineteenth-century natural history, including those who pursued butterflies for sport and aesthetic pleasure, and those such as Stainton who considered themselves to be rigorous men of science. The practical aspects of collecting specimens were the common thread that bound these individuals together.