The Healing Arts: New Discoveries in Pneumaticks!

By James Gillray. In this etching, he caricaturised a lecturer – most likely physician and chemist Thomas Garnett, as administering gas at London’s Royal Institution to a particularly long-winded member of parliament, Sir John Coxe Hippisley. Squeezing the bellows next to the pair is the grinning future Sir Humphry Davy. Just over a week after Hannah Humphrey published Gillray’s etching, Davy would replace Garnett as the Royal Institution’s Lecturer of Chemistry. Source.  Over to the left, toward the bottom, there appears to be an interracial couple with a child. Click for full size!

New Discoveries in Pneumaticks!: or an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, James Gillray, Etching coloured, 1802. Subject: New Discoveries, Equipment, Supplies, Teaching.

New Discoveries in Pneumaticks!: or an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, James Gillray, Etching coloured, 1802. Subject: New Discoveries, Equipment, Supplies, Teaching.

Anatomy Atlas Part 7 – Rib Cage

I thought that I am done with skeleton, I really did. I was wrong and I admit it. There is one more. The rib cage.

Rib Cage

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

However I cannot remember any interesting story about ribcage from my education. I have a personal story instead regarding deformities of the rib cage.

I had so-called Pectus carinatum, aka pigeon chest, as a child. The worst thing about it is not the physical deformity itself, which is now nearly invisible, but the way it fucked up my head. In addition to my other medical problems I had also suffered from shortness of breath due to constrained lungs. That meant that no matter how much I tried, I never had much stamina for running or swimming or any sport really.

This is where gym teachers come into picture. I find it astounding how all the athletic people I have ever met are convinced that accidents of birth played no role whatsoever and that they are the sole instigators of their strength and beauty and they take all the credit. So children who were not born physically beautiful and strong get ridiculed, body shamed and blamed – sometimes even by teachers whose should know better.

To this day I dislike being seen topless, the subconscious fear of ridicule is still there. And I hate PE teachers.

The Healing Arts: The Gin Shop.

George Cruikshank, click for full size.

The Gin Shop, George Cruikshank, Etching coloured, 1829. Subject: Alcohol, Gin, Drunkenness, Mother's Ruin, Children, Child Care.

The Gin Shop, George Cruikshank, Etching coloured, 1829. Subject: Alcohol, Gin, Drunkenness, Mother’s Ruin, Children, Child Care.

The GIN Shop –

—”Now oh dear, how shocking the thought is They makes the gin from aquafortis:

They do it on purpose folks lives to shorten And tickets it up at two-pence a quartern.”

New Ballad.

You can read more about the Gin Craze here.

Fairy Tale Art.

A wonderful site, full of enough fairy tale art to keep a person quite busy, sent along by rq: Art Passions. Fairy Tale art and artists encompass so very many styles, and the illustrations are crucial to the stories, they inflame the imagination, and illuminate the stories from within. In this particular case, serendipity strikes, as I brought home a book of short tales by Leigh Bardugo yesterday:

The first story, Ayama and the Thorn Wood, is a grand story which I enjoyed very much. I do have one noisy complaint however, and it has to do with the fairy tale art. In the story, Ayama is described thusly:

“Ayama was clumsy and apt to drop things. Her body was solid and flat-footed, short and round as a beer jug.”

Given this description, why in the fuckety fuck is Ayama drawn like this?:

This never should have gotten a pass from anyone, let alone the author. It is not a crime to depict characters correctly, and all girls do not need to be tall and thin with a teeny waist. FFS, seeing this sort of thing is infuriating, and it went a long way to souring a very good story. In the story, Ayama is strong, courageous, imaginative, and thoughtful. In the drawing, she’s just another generic pretty, skinny girl. That’s not doing anyone any favours. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that’s a message all kids need. What they don’t need is yet another cookie cutter shape to try and stuff themselves into, regardless of fit.

The Healing Arts: A Man Mid-Wife.

An interesting piece, addressing what was a great controversy, with people hotly on one side or another, as male physicians encroached on the world of childbirth. Additional information and sources under the image. Click for full size.

A Man Mid-Wife, Isaac Cruikshank, Etching coloured, 1793. Subject: John Blunt (pseud. S.W. Fores), Midwives, Surgical Instruments, Forceps.

A Man Mid-Wife, Isaac Cruikshank, Etching coloured, 1793. Subject: John Blunt (pseud. S.W. Fores), Midwives, Surgical Instruments, Forceps.

The text reads:

“A Man-Mid-Wife, or a newly discover’d animal, not Known in Buffon’s time; for a more full description or this monster, see, an ingenious book, lately published, price 3/6 entitled Man-Midwifery dissected, containing a variety of well-authenticated cases elucidating this animals Propensities to cruelty & indecency sold by the publisher of this Print who has presented the author with the above [illustration] for the Frontispiece to his Book.”

From the same source:


This etching illustrated a book criticizing (male) physician birth attendants–“man midwives”–today’s obstetricians. The etching shows a figure that is male on one side, female on the other. The male half stands on a plain wood floor next to a large mortar and pestle, holding an instrument labeled a “lever” in his hand, which is pressed against his thigh. The background seems to be a shop, with shelves lined with vials, bottles, and frightening looking instruments labeled “forceps,” “boring scissors,” and “blunt book.”

In contrast, the female half of the figure stands in a homey room on a decoratively carpeted floor; in her outstretched hand she holds a small cup. Behind her, a fire burns in a grate.


This etching was made in 1793, at a time when middle-and upper-middle class English women were being attended by physicians rather than midwives at the births of their children. Midwives were left to attend the beds of birthing women too poor to afford the services of physicians.

At the time, however, criticism was leveled at physicians who chose to demean themselves by doing “women’s work,” with some suggestion that their only motivations must be prurient ones. (This latter accusation is hinted at by one of the bottles on the shelves of the man half of the man-midwife; it is labeled “love water.”).

Today, while few would accuse male ob-gyns of perversion (although male medical students who choose this specialty probably still raise eyebrows in some corners), questions about the proper place, methods, and attendants at childbirth still are debated. Only in the past three decades, for example, has the presence of fathers at childbirth been considered proper, and we still argue about home vs. hospital births, the use of midwives, training for midwives, and the place of technology and medication in normal births.

You can read a fair amount of what was written in the 18th century by people on both the pro- and anti- sides here.

Historian Ruby has an excellent rundown of the great controversy, where once again we encounter the scandal of Mary Toft in this excerpt:

Hugh Chamberlen, as well as being a physician, was also a speculative businessman, and when his proposed business dealings failed, his creditors forced him to flee abroad.  With his credibility damaged, he was lampooned in verse in 1699 in Hue and Cry After a Man-Midwife, Who has Lately Deliver’d the Land-Bank of their Money.  It was noted that ‘great belly’d ladies have mighty respect for’ the man-midwife, demonstrating that the fashion for men-midwives commenced in the seventeenth century and was not just an eighteenth century phenomenon.  The verse also alluded to the outrage that was displayed in some quarters by opponents of men-midwives, ‘Among his profession he’s fam’d as a topper, By some call’d a midwife, by others a groper,’ hinting at sexual improprieties that the man-midwife could commit once alone with vulnerable females.

Public suspicion of the medical profession ran deep in the eighteenth century, in part due to the non-secular society believing that decaying bodies tainted the men who practiced medicine, but also, medicine was considered the least prestigious of the professions and the physicians’ failure to cure illness and stave off death impacted the public’s perception of them.  The man-midwifery profession was further disparaged after several eminent London men-midwives supported Mary Tofts, who in the 1720s claimed to have given birth to a litter of rabbits.  The absurdity of their support of Tofts in her fraudulent claim led to professional ridicule.  Not only were the men of the medical profession considered asinine for agreeing with Tofts’ wild claims, there was a growing suspicion of the practitioner as a ‘corrupter of morals, a threat to female modesty and even as a libertine.’

Blunt’s book, Man-midwifery dissected ; or, the obstetric family-instructor : In fourteen letters, is available to read at the Internet Archive. You can also see the above image properly coloured as the frontispiece of the book.

The Healing Arts: Mixing A Recipe for Corns.

There will be much of George Cruikshank, caricaturist and printmaker coming up, but I felt this one deserved to be on its own, given the sheer amount of very weird detail. There seems to be an implication of witchery and/or paganism here. Interestingly, this one was one of the ones designed by Frederick Marryat, a British naval officer, and author. It’s interesting to note that In 1839, Marryat also published his Diary in America, a travelogue that reflects his criticisms of American culture and society. The book and the author were both subject to acts of violence, including the burning of the book and of Marryat’s effigy in public. It can be read for free at the link provided; I note that the e-books are also available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

There’s an astonishing amount of detail here. Note the painting hanging on the wall – an assault in progress. That earns a WTF? Then the Goddess detail on the mantel, with the dogs. Peacock feathers on the mantel, too. They were associated with witches, particularly those with healing arts. Then there’s the cat and dog, and screaming parrot, with the mouse in between. And what appears to be a Buddha on the mantel, and so. much. more. Click for full size!

Mixing A Recipe for Corns.

Anatomy Atlas Part 7 – Pelvis

This is the last drawing in the Anatomy atlas that is about skeleton.

Pelvis is most ingenous in many ways. Not only is the hip joint  bearing most of the weight, it is second most flexible joint in human body, with three axes of freedom just like the shoulder joint, only in lesser degree. Further the whole structure must be flexible enough to allow for birth.

Pelvis skeleton

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Today’s stories ar more sad than interesting and they are both about the skeleton we used for learning.

When teaching assistant brought the box with skeleton in the class her emphasised ” These are not casts, these are real bones. Please be aware that you are handling the remains of a real human being, so treat them with dignity. Memento mori – you too shall perish.”.

I was wondering why he feels the need to say that, we are all adults over twenty years of age, surely we need not be reminded of that like some adolescents? Well, not long after he has left the class one future gym teacher was showing off in front of a few of his laughing female classmates with a femur used as a microphone for pretend singing. My opinion of them all dropped significantly and I never forgot that sight. That was one of many proofs that in every social gathering will inevitably be someone who insist on being an asshole and someone who enables them in being an asshole.

Second story is about the dead man himself. He did not have completely fused os sacrum, with the top vertebra being free. And his whole pelvis was assymetrical and deformed on one side, with the openning for nervus ischiadicus being pinched and ground between that free vertebra and the fused rest. The teaching assistant told us that the man must have suffered from immense pain his whole life and that this was assumed to be the reason why he dies at relatively young age with probable cause of death being suicide by means of unknown poison. Whenever I remember that story I wish he had better options to deal with that problem.

No. That’s Just Wrong.

I was happily lost in The Public Domain Review the other day, and came across High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry from 1910. I know there was great excitement over electricity, and there were phases of “miracle cures” where it was concerned, but in this case, it was the photos which got my attention, including one which just about had me screaming, and I’m not even a parent:

The text reads:

Plate XXII. – This beautiful picture (as exquisite as Manet’s “Boy with the Sword” which is one of the classics of the Painting Art), sets forth this boy bringing his pocket “Tesla” for the enjoyment of his beloved tonic. His sturdy strength at the age of three is a tribute to the efficacy of high frequency currents, for at the age of three days, when his treatment with them was begun, he was an illy-thriving and frail infant with but the feeblest hold on life. Look at him well, and think how many myriads of pallid children – of all ages – need the same remedy.

There is So. Much. Wrong. there, it just leaves me sputtering. Applying electrical currents to a three day old infant? All I can think is how very easily that could kill said infant. As for the photo being as exquisite as Boy with a Sword, let’s see:

L'Enfant à l'épée'' par Edouard Manet, 1861.

L’Enfant à l’épée’ par Edouard Manet, 1861.

Yeah, I don’t think there’s any honest comparison there at all. There are other questionable and frightening photos to be seen with the magical Tesla wand, but have a care, there’s some nudity, so NSFW.