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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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.

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.

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]

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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.

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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.

Arabella Kenealy (1859-1938): Medical woman, author and eugenicist

NB: This article contains references to eugenicist ideas and descriptions of miscarriage that readers may find upsetting.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which we typically mark by highlighting the achievements of pioneering women in history. Last year, I appeared in a video for ConSciCom discussing the Victorian medical-woman movement, talking about how early female practitioners paved the way for later generations of women in medicine. There is immense value in highlighting the inspirational activities of our female forerunners; it improves the visibility of women’s history and helps to redress traditionally male-dominated narratives. However, in doing so, we also risk sanitising or erasing more problematic aspects of women’s history. Not all ‘pioneering’ women can or should be treated as proto-feminist icons.

The subject of this profile – Arabella Kenealy, an early medical woman and author, who was also an outspoken eugenicist – deftly illustrates this. As Angelique Richardson has shown, there was considerable interaction between the New Woman and eugenicist movements at the fin de siècle,[1]  and Kenealy was a particularly prolific and extreme spokesperson on degeneration.

Arabella Kenealy

Born in Portslade, East Sussex in 1859, Kenealy was one of eleven children from the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth Kenealy. Her father was a barrister, who earned notoriety for his eccentric conduct when he acted as counsel during the Tichborne Case. The young Kenealy was educated at home, and she later studied at the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1883, she was licensed by the King’s and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland, the first licensing body in the UK to admit women. She went on to practise medicine in London and Watford between 1884 and ‘94.

In 1893, her novel Dr Janet of Harley Street appeared, amid a vogue for fiction about medical women.[2] The narrative tells the story of Phyllis Eve, a young woman who runs away from her dissipated husband on her wedding day. She finds refuge with Dr Janet Doyle, a successful physician who attempts to make Phyllis her protégé.

Dr Janet is a pragmatic, confident and capable medical woman, who has a large and prosperous practice. Yet the story largely perpetuates gender stereotypes. Women doctors were often seen as androgynous or unconventional figures, and Janet fits this archetype – she is masculine in appearance and describes herself as having a ‘neuter-nature’. [3] By contrast, Phyllis is almost hyper-feminine – sensitive, innocent, and highly-strung. Whereas Janet thrives in medicine, Phyllis wilts from the pressures of study. The narrative is interested in medical education and practice, but it is largely concerned with Phyllis’s attempts to escape her reprobate husband and find love with Janet’s cousin, Paul. The story unfolds as a battle between Janet and Paul for Phyllis’s future. He insists that ‘[a] woman like that is made for love and home and children’ rather than ‘skeletons and pharmacopeias’.[4] He is proven right, and the novel implies that only some (atypical) women are suited to medical work.

In an earlier blog post, I profiled one of Kenealy’s contemporaries, Margaret Todd, the author of Mona Maclean, Medical Student (1892). This novel has aged relatively well, retaining much of its humour and charm, and its independent heroine remains sympathetic and engaging. By contrast, Dr Janet now seems distinctly unpalatable and even shocking in places, both in its more restrictive attitude towards gender roles and its scorn towards the working classes. The titular character vehemently warns of the dangers of degeneration, presenting working-class sexuality as a threat. In one scene, she attends poor patients at the hospital, asking the parents of ‘sickly or evilly-disposed children’ if they are ‘not ashamed to have brought such “human rubbish” into existence’.[5]

The novel was also considered rather outlandish at the time of publication, however. Whereas Mona Maclean is a romance in the realist mode, Dr Janet is a sensationalist and melodramatic novel, with a plotline that encompasses a faked death, bigamy, and adultery. In the closing chapters, the titular character even persuades Phyllis’s dissolute husband to commit suicide, to release his young wife from their doomed marriage. Reviewing the novel, journalist Hilda Gregg suggested that this method of dispatching the villain was ‘highly ingenious’, adding that ‘[i]n Miss Kenealy’s opinion, it is also highly moral in character, but this is a matter on which a very different view may be held’.[6]

Shortly after the novel’s publication, Kenealy contracted diphtheria and retired from active medical practice due to ill-health. She increasingly focused on writing both popular fiction and articles for magazines such as The Nineteenth Century and Eugenics Review. In Dr Janet, the eponymous character represents sexual difference as the ‘acme of development’, positing her own ‘neuter-nature’ as an aberration.[7] Kenealy’s later writing espoused similar views on evolution and sex. It implied that Nature was unconcerned with women’s physical or intellectual prowess, and more interested in procreation. Unlike many of her fellow medical women, Kenealy endorsed conventional femininity and gender roles, fearing that women’s work would detract from their most important vocation: motherhood. She presented women as passionless creatures, who needed to conserve their energies for reproduction.[8] Her book Feminism and Sex Extinction (1920), as its title suggests, concentrated on what she perceived as the harmful effects of the women’s rights movement. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) branded it ‘an interesting study in modern sociology’, and one that would confirm the views of those who saw ‘nought but harm in votes for women’.[9]

As with many eugenicists, Kenealy’s fixation with the decline of the national stock included a concern with congenital illnesses, including venereal disease. In 1895, she wrote a letter to the BMJ, which appeared under the title ‘A Question of Conscience’. This is the first known example of a woman doctor attending venereal disease in private practice.[11] The correspondence records a case where Kenealy withheld treatment from a pregnant women with syphilis, who appeared to be approaching a miscarriage. The patient had previously suffered several miscarriages and borne one child with congenital syphilis. Kenealy characterised her patient as ‘a wreck of a young woman’, dehumanising the existing child with reference to its ‘dull misshapen head’.[10] Kenealy asked the BMJ’s readers for their opinion on her handling of the case.

The letter raised questions about medical ethics and morality and Kenealy’s approach drew criticism from some of her contemporaries. The BMJ later printed a letter from A.G. Welsford, who argued that allowing or enabling miscarriages whenever there was chance of inherited disease amounted to ‘a radical method of eliminating unhealthy strains in the race’. He anticipated it would lead to ‘terrible abuses’, and contended that it was not for doctors to decide whether or not a particular life had ‘value’.[12] In a later letter, Kenealy said that she appreciated ‘the position of trust held by the physician’. She denied that she was advocating euthanasia but claimed that practitioners should ‘allow’ Nature to ‘cast off’ a foetus with congenital syphilis.[13]She continued to use graphic and dehumanising language while defending her position. The BMJ shut down further correspondence on the matter, as it often did with lengthy and inflammatory exchanges.

Across her career, Kenealy was recognised as both a woman doctor and an author. Like Todd, her literary and medical identities intersected, though sometimes in less affirmative ways. In 1896, the BMJ printed a critique of her short story, ‘A Human Vivisection’, in which a Professor vivisects a drunk man. An anonymous reviewer lambasted the plotline, suggesting that if a writer who appeared on the Medical Register believed a practitioner capable of such acts, she should ‘publicly […] disassociate’ herself from the profession. If not, she should do other than ‘slander’ her peers.[14] In a rejoinder, Kenealy emphasised her pride in the profession and pointed out that other authors (such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle) were not attacked for their dubious portraits of medical men. The BMJ inserted an editorial apology, saying it regretted any ‘misrepresentation’ as to Kenealy’s intentions.[15] Kenealy remained active in medical, cultural and public spheres. She campaigned against vivisection, giving evidence to the 1912 Royal Commission, and she also became interested in occultism. She died in Marylebone, London in November 1938.

Kenealy is not the type of woman to be reclaimed as a proto-feminist icon. Her views on eugenics and sexual politics make for distinctly troubling reading. While they partly reflect contemporary ideologies, they were also regarded as controversial and even abhorrent by her peers. Nevertheless, it is important to engage with problematic female ‘pioneers’ such as Kenealy. As identified at the outset, simply reifying individuals as inspirational heroines risks oversimplifying and sanitising women’s history. Recently, historian Fern Riddell has highlighted the role violence played in the suffragette movement, discussing how such militancy has been erased in the cultural imagination. Of course, Kenealy in many ways went against this grain, using her platform to decry women’s rights, but she is another figure who proves difficult to accommodate or integrate into our popular narratives of women’s history. To understand fully women’s varied contributions to history, however, we need to engage with a range of attitudes, opinions and behaviours that shaped public and private life.

[1] Angelique Richardson, Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth-Century: Rational Reproduction and the New Woman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 9.

[2] Kristine Swenson, Medical Women and Victorian Fiction (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005).

[3] Arabella Kenealy, Dr Janet of Harley Street (New York: Appleton, 1894), p. 124.

[4] Kenealy, Dr Janet, p. 143.

[5] Kenealy, Dr Janet, p. 195.

[6] Hilda Gregg, ‘The Medical Woman in Fiction’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 164 (July 1898), 94-109 (p. 108).

[7] Kenealy, Dr Janet, p. 124.

[8] Patricia Fara, A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 40.

[9] ‘Notes on Books’, BMJ, 15 May 1920, p. 676.

[10] Kenealy, ‘Correspondence: A Question of Conscience’, BMJ, 14 September 1895, p. 682.

[11] Anne Hanley, Medicine, Knowledge and Venereal Diseases in England, 1886-1916 (London: Palgrave, 2017), p. 154.

[12] A.G. Welsford, ‘Correspondence: “A Question of Conscience”’, BMJ, 28 September 1895, p. 807.

[13] Kenealy, ‘Correspondence: “A Question of Conscience”’, BMJ, 12 October 1895, p. 934.

[14] ‘Letters, Notes, and Answers to Correspondents: “A Human Vivisection”’, BMJ, 20 June 1896, p. 1544.

[15] ‘Letters, Notes, and Answers to Correspondents: “A Human Vivisection”’, BMJ, 27 June 1896, p. 1588.

Emma Hutchinson (1820-1906)

In browsing many natural history periodicals of the nineteenth century, a casual reader could be forgiven for believing that science was pursued predominantly by men. The overwhelming majority of contributors to these publications were male, and even the few mentions of women involved in collecting are often mediated through their husbands or other male relatives. A Mr J. P. Duncan wrote to the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer in 1858 to relate that, ‘Mrs Duncan captured, yesterday afternoon, a fine female specimen of what I conceive to be Micra ostrina‘. The identity of the unfortunate Mrs Duncan is elided, and although she is rightfully credited with catching the insect, it is her husband who identifies the species and assumes responsibility for informing the periodical’s readers.

Despite the preponderance of men in these periodicals, women were heavily involved in the practices of natural history, though evidence of their roles can sometimes be harder to come by. Some of us will be familiar with the pioneering figure of Eleanor Ormerod (1808-1901), who earned widespread recognition among the scientific establishment for her work on injurious insects. Far less well-known, however, is Emma Hutchinson (1820-1906), who was an important and highly-valued figure within the entomological community. Born Emma Gill, in 1847 she married the Reverend Thomas Hutchinson, a Herefordshire-based vicar and keen botanist. It was the couple’s eldest son who first turned his mother’s attention to the pursuit of entomology, when he caught a moth at the age of five. Thereafter, Hutchinson took to the study of insects with an enthusiasm and dedication far beyond many of her contemporaries.

Hutchinson became particularly skilled at the breeding of Lepidoptera, a very difficult task that required dexterity and close attention. While chasing butterflies with a net was certainly a common practice, rearing insects from the egg was an equally established way of acquiring specimens. It ensured the insects were in excellent condition, as identification of species could often rest on minute anatomical differences that were at risk of damage by the less gentle manner of catching them on the wing. Furthermore, it allowed for a more exhaustive study of these insects, giving the breeder a chance to observe the full lifecycle of the butterfly or moth as it progressed from caterpillar to the adult (imago) stage.

Among Hutchinson’s greatest claim to fame was her continuous breeding of Eupithecia insigniata – the Pinion-spotted Pug moth – for over thirty years. In volume 8 of William Buckler’s book, Larvae of the British Butterflies and Moths (1899), the author notes that ‘towards the end of May, 1868, Mrs Hutchinson, of Grantsfield, kindly sent me seven eggs of Eupithecia consignata, laid by a female taken in Herefordshire by her daughter. They all hatched in the course of a few days’. Buckler notes that this was an ‘almost unknown larva’, thereby making Hutchinson’s contribution particularly valuable.

Buckler Larvae

William Buckler’s illustrations of larvae, with Hutchinson’s Pinion-spotted Pug centre-left (no. 2).

Despite her obvious skill and expertise, Hutchinson published very little compared to her male counterparts, nor was she permitted to join her local scientific society, the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, which did not admit women as full members until 1954. Consequently, one of her earliest publications in the club’s Transactions is attributed to ‘the family of Rev. Thos. Hutchinson’. Hutchinson’s obituarist in the Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation lamented that ‘she has left record of so little of her knowledge’, and ranked her among the foremost entomologists in the country at that time. However, she did contribute various short notices to two periodicals, the Entomologist (1864-1973) and the Young Naturalist (1879-90), recording her entomological activity.

Writing in 1865, Hutchinson recorded a successful collecting trip: ‘I shall be obliged to announce in the Entomologist the capture of Cerestoma asperella at Leominster. I believe this insect has only been taken once before in this country, and then by Mr Dale at Glanvilles Wootton. I have taken but a single specimen, and on the same day a lady in our party netted a specimen of Sarothripa revayana, an insect not previously taken here’. The published letter was signed ‘E. S. Hutchinson’, giving no clue as to her gender. This brief statement is highly suggestive, as it demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of Lepidoptera and an ability to correctly identify these insects, but also a familiarity with entomological literature regarding where and by whom previous captures had been made. Furthermore, the reference to a second woman collecting as part of the group demonstrates that Hutchinson was far from unique in her choice of pastime.

Among Hutchinson’s few publications of greater length was an article in the Young Naturalist. As the periodical’s title implies, the magazine aimed to ‘cultivate a taste for natural history’ among children and adolescents. Hutchinson’s piece was entitled ‘Entomology and Botany as Pursuits for Ladies’, specifically addressing young ladies in an attempt to convince her readers that these two branches of study were ‘strictly feminine’ and worth their time. The conversational style resembles the ‘maternal tradition’ of science writing, as characterised by Bernard Lightman, by which women wrote for an audience of children and other women. Unlike her letters to the Entomologist, the article was signed as ‘Mrs Hutchinson’, thereby emphasising that she was a woman and a mother.

A further significant article penned by Hutchinson for the Entomologist in 1881 regards the supposed near-extinction of the Comma butterfly (Vanessa c-album) in Britain, as had been repoorted by a number of other correspondents to the periodical. She disagreed, reporting that the butterfly remained abundant in her native Herefordshire. Furthermore, Hutchinson relates her attempts at conservation, describing how ‘I have bribed those over whom I have control in the parish to collect for me every larva and pupa they can find, and by this means have preserved many thousands of this lovely butterfly’. A great number of these insects she sent to be released in Surrey, in an effort to repopulate depleted areas, ‘but without success’.

After Hutchinson’s death, her scientifically valuable collection of 20,000 Herefordshire Lepidoptera were donated by her daughter to the London Natural History Museum, a testament to the scope and significance of her collecting. She is remembered in entomological nomenclature by a variant form of the Comma butterfly, which is named hutchinsoni in her honour.

6779574586_61ecff708f_b

The Comma butterfly, from Richard South’s Butterflies of the British Isles (1906). The variety named after Hutchinson, which is slightly paler than the other forms, is bottom right.

 

 

Midland Medical Miscellany (1881-95)

MMM

One of the pleasures of working with a physical collection of journals is serendipity. Scholars of periodical literature frequently cite chance encounters with interesting material as the chief advantage of engaging with original, hard-copy sources. My PhD research drew extensively on a collection of journals in the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s library. It was while I was wandering around their underground stacks that I came across the Midland Medical Miscellany. I was initially attracted by its playfully alliterative title and its beautiful frontispiece. However, I soon became absorbed by its insight into provincial medical identities and its in-depth discussions of ‘problem’ patients. This was not an irreverent ‘light entertainment’ magazine but a serious periodical catering for beleaguered practitioners outside the metropolis.

Medical Miscellany

A periodical for the provinces

The Miscellany was a general medical monthly which launched in 1881 as a Leicester-based publication. It was originally edited by Kenneth W. Millican, a general practitioner in the village of Kineton (Warwickshire) and later a specialist in throat diseases in London. In a future blog post I’ll be profiling Millican, showing how he presented himself as a spokesperson for provincial practitioners but ended up leading a relatively cosmopolitan career. In 1885, editorship passed to Thomas Michael Dolan, a doctor based in Halifax. The periodical was renamed the Provincial Medical Journal, a title it retained until it folded in 1895.

The inaugural issue of the Miscellany featured a long opening address, which set out the journal’s intended readership. While noting that its ‘careful selection of information’ would not ‘be uninteresting to those in what are commonly considered to be the higher ranks of the profession’, it asserted that it was designed to be of ‘especial value to the hardworking and leisureless General Practitioner’. In particular, it felt that its condensed reports of new research would be ideally suited to the ‘overworked’ medical man.[1] This editorial engaged with common tropes about the toils of provincial and country general practice.

As its later title implies, the journal proudly asserted its provincial character, while criticising the metropolitan elite. In 1882, the Miscellany reprinted comments made by its future editor. Dolan had characterised England’s major medical journals – the Lancet and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) – as essentially ‘London publication[s]’. He suggested that:

the literary activities of the provincial general practitioners were increasing each year – the London Practitioner alone could produce enough material to fill the Lancet and Medical Journal – therefore, if they desired not to be beaten out of the field, they must look for a new vehicle for the conveyance of their thoughts.

The Miscellany styled itself as this ‘new vehicle’. It modestly suggested that it did not lay claim to be ‘at present in a position adequately to represent the General Medical Practitioners of the Country’, but emphasised that it was ‘compiled in [their] interests’.[2]  The journal suggested that there was an opening in the market for a new type of publication, implying that provincial GPs felt underrepresented by mainstream metropolitan journals. It positioned itself as better suited to these readers’ interests and lifestyle.

By insinuating that the BMJ privileged metropolitan practitioners, Dolan implied that it had alienated its traditional readership. The BMJ began life in 1840 as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal (PMSJ), the defacto periodical of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association. Both were rebranded in the 1850s, becoming the BMJ and British Medical Association respectively. These changes were controversial; some Association members expressed fears that the interests of the metropolis were being prioritised over those of the provinces.[3]

Under Dolan’s editorship, the Miscellany was later renamed the Provincial Medical Journal. This was presumably a marketing tactic designed to increase the journal’s appeal outside the Midlands; by this time, it was also published in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin. Further, by framing itself as a journal for provincial medical practitioners, it effectively positioned itself in the space once occupied by the PMSJ. Perhaps this was a bid to claim the BMJ’s disaffected readers, though it came several decades after the controversy surrounding that journal. Scholars have discussed the diminishing popularity of the ‘provincial’ as a template for national identity.[4] However, the journal’s use of the term as late as the 1880s and 90s indicates a desire to reclaim provincialism and assert it as a broader identity. The journal addressed itself to all those who practised outside of the metropolis.

pmj.jpg

Engaging with ‘problem’ patients

Upon its launch, the Miscellany asserted that among its chief interests were ‘Ethics and Etiquette, the relations of members of the profession with the public’.[5] The journal did not adopt a romanticised perspective of the doctor-patient relationship, but rather discussed what it saw as the challenges of general practice.

In 1882, it featured a lengthy article on ‘The Question of Patients’, which focused on the difficulties encountered in ‘diagnostic interrogation’. The article demonstrated remarkable snobbery towards ‘the badly educated classes’, remarking on the ‘sheer inability […] of persons who have led unintelligent lives, to grasp the meaning and importance of questions that are put to them’.[6] The writer implied that patients were to blame for unsatisfactory medical interactions.

Two months later, the journal published a feature on ‘A Practitioner’s Grievances’, many of which related specifically to country practice, particularly the demands made on ‘the Doctor’s time’. It complained that, ‘in country districts, especially, it is almost impossible to induce patients to send their messages to the doctor in decent time’. It described the practitioner arriving home after a long day, ‘weary and hungry’, only to ‘find a message awaiting him’ to return to a village he had visited earlier that day. This frustration is compounded by the fact he ‘finds that the patient has been ill for a week, and that to-morrow morning would have done just as well’.[7] Complaints about patients requesting attendance at inconvenient times were not unusual, though together these articles seem particularly critical of patients.

The journal was also concerned about medical men’s interactions with women. In these instances it was the practitioner (rather than the patient) who was supposed to alter his behaviour. An article on ‘The Relation of Medical Men to their Patients’ (1885) counselled ‘[y]oung medical practitioners [to] bear in mind a few general truths in their dealings especially with female patients’. It recommended that ‘[c]onfidential relations with ladies of a household’ were to be ‘absolutely declined’ and that ‘examinations of female patients should always be made in presence of a third person’.[8] Such warnings were common in medical writing. Jukes de Styrap’s The Young Practitioner (1890) – an advice guide for aspiring medical men – counselled its readers to be ‘extremely cautious […] in having married women or young females to consult you secretly’.[9] Practitioners were taught that their encounters with female patients should be conducted with propriety.

Medical men in rural or small-town practices were thought to be particularly susceptible to rumour, innuendo and scandal. In 1883, the Miscellany reprinted a poem entitled ‘The Doctor’s Dream’, which originally appeared in Punch.[10] The poem’s speaker is a village practitioner, who reminisces about his life and career. One of the challenges he recalls is having ‘[t]o face and brave the gossip and stuff that travels about through a country town;/ To be thrown in the way of hysterical girls, and live all terrible scandal down’. Though humorous in tone, the Miscellany suggested that the poem was ‘worthy of preservation in medical literature’ and likely to ‘strike a chord in every medical man’s heart’.[11]  The Miscellany’s later incarnation, the PMJ, featured an article on ‘Doctors and Lady Patients’ (1887) which warned of the dangers surrounding long visits to women. It noted that, ‘[i]n London possibly they might escape, for a time, from the eye of Mrs Grundy […] In provincial towns medical men who are too attentive, very soon fall under her ken and then – Nemesis!’[12] These pieces show how communities might police the practitioner’s professional conduct.

The Miscellany/PMJ framed itself as a riposte to the dominance of the London periodical press and capitalised on the provincial medical man’s perceived resentment towards his metropolitan counterparts. It grappled with the supposed challenges of general practice and proudly asserted its provincialism. While it enjoyed almost fifteen years in circulation, the fact it eventually folded perhaps indicates that its approach was not particular popular with medical readers. The journals that it attacked – the Lancet and BMJ –  remained the most widely read titles.

[1] ‘Introduction’, Midland Medical Miscellany, January 1881, pp. 1-2 (p. 1).

[2] ‘A Journal for the General Practitioner’, Midland Medical Miscellany, April 1882, p. 55.

[3] For an overview, see Peter W.J. Bartrip, Mirror of Medicine: The BMJ, 1840-1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990)

[4] Robin Gilmour, ‘Regional and Provincial in Victorian Literature’, in The Literature of Region and Nation, ed. by R.P. Draper (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 51-60 (p. 52).

[5] ‘Introduction’, pp. 1-2.

[6] ‘The Question of Patients’, Midland Medical Miscellany, February 1882, pp. 21-4 (p. 22).

[7] ‘A Practitioner’s Grievances’, Midland Medical Miscellany, April 1882, pp. 51-2 (p. 51).

[8] ‘The Relation of Medical Men to their Patients’, Midland Medical Miscellany, 1 January 1885, p. 23.

[9] Jukes de Styrap, The Young Practitioner (London: H.K. Lewis, 1890), p. 110. This book was based on Daniel Webster Cathell’s popular US manual, Book on the Physician Himself (1881), which exercised similar caution.

[10] ‘The Doctor’s Dream’, Punch, 20 January 1883, p. 35.

[11] ‘The Doctor’s Dream’, Midland Medical Miscellany, February 1883, pp. 63-4 (p. 63).

[12] ‘Annotations: Doctors and Lady Patients’, Provincial Medical Journal, 1 January 1887, p. 35.

S. J. Mackie and the Geologist

The life of a periodical editor in the nineteenth century was not an occupation for the easily discouraged. Financial precarity and the worry of finding sufficient material for each issue were constant struggles for many, particularly as the print market became increasingly crowded. Periodicals were often short-lived, lucky to exist for more than a few years before collapsing under the strain. The career of Samuel Joseph Mackie (1823-1902), editor of the Geologist (1858-1864), is a particularly remarkable example of such a career.

There is a great deal we do not know about the life of S. J. Mackie. No known image of him exists, and we must surmise much from the scattered traces of his chequered path through the world of scientific publishing. Born in Folkestone, Mackie’s interest in geology began from an early age. By his late twenties, he was employed as a customs officer, but had also been elected as a Fellow of the Geological Society on the strength of his scientific work. However, a financial scandal involving his father cast a shadow over his early career, leaving Mackie bankrupt and forcing him to relocate to London. It is not clear how he earned a living at this stage, but Mackie next emerges as editor of a new periodical, the Geologist, in 1858. The preface asks for correspondents to ‘join in aiding me in my earnest desire to popularize and to extend the noble science of geology without sacrificing, in any way, its proper dignity’. Mackie was prone to grandiloquence, clearly believing his role as editor was one weighted with great responsibility. ‘Nothing once printed is innocuous or inert’, he stated, pointing to the importance of periodicals to the advancement of science, as the ‘magazine is bound into a volume, and may be read again months or years afterwards, and become, as it often does, the first course of instruction to younger minds’.

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Title page of the Geologist‘s second volume

The Geologist was a self-described ‘popular illustrated monthly magazine’. It shared the ideology common to many other natural history periodicals of this period – such as the Zoologist, for example – in inviting contributions from anyone who had something of interest to share. ‘In every corner of the country where a labourer in the Geological field is to be found, there exists a man who has it in his power to uphold the Geologist, and by upholding it, to foster Science’. Geology was a particularly popular and fashionable subject, as Mackie himself observed: ‘it is wondered at, and enquired about’ by a large section of the public ‘who cannot help noticing as they walk about the country, the earth is deposited in layers or strata; who see fossils dug out of railway cuttings, or who stop to gaze in astonishment, blended with incredulity, at the restorations of uncouth antediluvian creatures in the gardens of the Crystal Palace’. Despite this apparent appetite, the Geologist struggled financially for most of its existence. It came to an unexpected close in 1864, when its publishers sold the periodical for a measly £25. The new owners, Longman, Green, & Co., begun their own periodical, the Geological Magazine (1864-). Mackie admitted defeat, deciding to ‘retire from the field rather than take part in a contest that might prove injurious to both’.

Mackie’s enthusiasm for periodicals was clearly not overly dampened by the ignoble end of the Geologist, and in 1865 he commenced another publication along similar lines. This journal was comprehensively entitled the Geological and Natural History Reportory. Just in case the scope of the periodical was in doubt, Mackie appended an extended subtitle, describing it as an ‘Illustrated Popular Weekly Magazine of Geology, Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Natural History, Terrestrial and Cosmical Physics, and Journal of Pre-Historic Archaeology and Ethnology’. The expanded remit of this new publication is most likely an attempt to maximise subscribers by appealing to as broad an audience as possible. Mackie noted that ‘no special-class scientific periodical has ever yet attained a higher circulation than from 800 to 1000’, yet ‘it is certain that the quantity of matter now given could not be continued unless a very much more extensive patronage be accorded to the present effort’. Mackie was publishing at his own expense, and therefore some caution was necessary. Despite the promise of ‘weekly’ issues, it began at a monthly rate ‘until sufficient promise of support has been received to ensure him [Mackie] against serious pecuniary loss’. However, it would appear that the required number of readers was not forthcoming, and the Reportory was therefore hampered from the beginning. The erratic publication schedule continued, barely reaching a single volume’s length in over two years. The final issue ends mid-sentence in 1869.

After the failure of the Reportory, Mackie gave up on editorship and took up employment as a civil engineer. Furthermore, he turned his hand to inventing, filing patents for various contraptions of dubious ingenuity, including a design for a cross-channel ferry intended to alleviate sea sickness. None of these patents ever went beyond the drawing board, and Mackie lived out the rest of his years in relative obscurity.