Showing 151 - 160 of 219 annotations tagged with the keyword "Public Health"

Summary:

The aim of this collage of anecdotes from medical history is largely to entertain, though it is pointedly instructive in its focus on reasons for and results of medical mistakes, misapprehensions, and serendipitous breakthroughs. Gordon's dryly humorous skepticism and general irreverence is balanced by an obvious delight in the intellectual play that characterizes the history of science.

The stories he tells range from Hippocrates to the present with a heavy focus on the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes a good representative collection of visual art and photography documenting moments in medical history upon which Gordon casts a cold but twinkling eye. Chapter titles such as "Discoveries in the Dark," "Sex and its Snags," "Odd Practices," and "Freud, the English Governess and the Smell of Burnt Pudding" give a bit of the book's flavor.

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Chekhov: 1860 - 1904

Laffitte, Sophie

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This biography, first published in French in 1971, was written by a Soviet émigré living in Paris. She begins her introduction with a quotation from Chekhov, "Happiness and the joy of life do not lie in money, nor in love, but in truth" (1). She follows this statement with an observation of her own, "Chekhov makes no prognoses, never raises his voice, does not explain, insist, and above all, does not instruct. . .

He is the least Russian of the great Russian writers." To a large extent, her short biography is devoted to presenting a particular vision of Chekhov that might be called "compassionate objectivity." Although her subject may not have insisted or instructed his readers, Ms. Laffitte does. In fact, there is a hagiographic quality about this book that leads the reader to conclude that if Chekhov had been a believer, by now he would have been canonized as Blessed Anton of Moscow.

Ms. Laffitte proceeds in multiple short chapters. While they are generally in chronological sequence, each one also takes up an issue or theme in Chekhov’s life. She makes copious and skillful use of her subject’s letters and notebooks. She also devotes considerable attention to Chekhov’s medical career, unlike V. S. Pritchett, whose short biography entitled, Chekhov. A Spirit Set Free (1988, see annotation in this database) portrays medicine as more of a hobby than a serious enterprise for Chekhov.

Ms. Laffitte also has a habit of tying up loose ends without presenting much evidence for her point of view, or acknowledging that uncertainty exists. For example, when dealing with what she calls Chekhov’s "moral depression" of the mid-1890s, she concludes, "By a logical exertion of willpower, Chekhov was gradually to emerge from this moral depression" (168). It seems here that she considers depression--assuming this is the correct term to use in the first place--a weakness or failure of will, rather than a clinical disorder.

Nonetheless, this short literary biography (not out-of-print) provides much easier reading than most of the major Chekhov biographies that have appeared since it was published.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

In four lengthy chapters, the biographies of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert are carefully presented. Special attention is given to health, both physical and psychological, throughout life and at its end. Autopsy information is included. In particular, the author emphasizes the impact of illness on the composers' relationships with family members and doctors, and on their musical composition.

Evidence is derived from a wealth of primary sources, often with long citations from letters, poetry, musical scores, prescriptions, diaries, the remarkable "chat books" of Beethoven. Neumayr also takes on the host of other medical biographers who have preceded him in trying to retrospectively 'diagnose' these immortal dead.

Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Vienna emerges as a remarkable city of musical innovation and clinical medicine. The composers' encounters with each other link these biographies. Similarly, many patrons, be they aristocrats or physicians, appear in more than one chapter, such as the Esterhazy family and Dr Anton Mesmer.

The disease concepts of the era, prevalent infections, and preferred therapies are treated with respect. Rigid public health rules in Vienna concerning burial practices meant that ceremonies could not take place in cemeteries and may explain why some unusual information is available and why other seemingly simple facts are lost.

Biographical information about the treating physicians is also given, together with a bibliography of secondary sources, and an index of specific works of music cited.

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To a Distant Island

McConkey, James

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

During a sabbatical year in Florence, English professor and writer James McConkey immersed himself in reading Anton Chekhov’s works, as well as biographies of the Russian writer. He began to feel a particular affinity for Chekhov’s crisis of 1889-1890 and his resolution of that crisis by traveling alone to Sakhalin Island off the eastern coast of Siberia to investigate conditions in the penal colonies that the Russian government had established in that distant region. Perhaps because McConkey himself was recovering from a series of traumatic experiences in his own life, he felt a kinship to this depressed young Russian author and his search for a new direction in life.

McConkey responded to this feeling of kinship by writing To a Distant Island, which is partly biographical, in that it retells the story of Chekhov’s six month long journey to Sakhalin Island in 1890; and partly a memoir, in that McConkey relates Chekhov’s life events to the feelings and events of his own life at the time. McConkey establishes this perspective from the beginning, when he explains why he refers to Chekhov throughout the book as "T": "I honor the man too much to call him by name throughout an account, which. . . is bound to be a fiction of my own" (8).

To a Distant Island dwells especially on the motivation for Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin, a question scholars have debated for a hundred years now. Of the many contributing reasons for the trip, McConkey chooses to highlight and fictionalize "the suicidal tendency that surfaced again a decade later in the marriage his health simply couldn’t afford" (26). McConkey refines this to "T. wants to escape--he wants out, at whatever the personal cost" (27). It is in this state of mind (or soul) that the brilliant and sensitive T. begins his journey to the end of the earth.

Perhaps as a metaphor that characterizes any human quest, McConkey devotes most of the writing and energy to T’s justification, preparation, and outward-bound journey. Only 37 pages remain for the story of what happens to his hero once the goal is achieved; and less than 6 pages for the homeward trek (or homeward "sail" in this case). [This is a technique, come to think of it, quite the opposite of Homer’s in "The Odyssey"!]

The conclusion? "Sakhalin, then, gave to T. nothing he hadn’t known all along. . . Perhaps despair--that absence of hope--is a requisite for any deepened understanding of a universal hope for something never to be found in the present time or place" (82).

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The Speckled Rash

Bulgakov, Mikhail

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator of the story, a former district doctor in Russia, reminisces about his frequent encounters with patients suffering from secondary syphilis ("the speckled rash"). The first case he diagnoses is a 40-year-old man seeking treatment for a sore throat. The doctor recommends the application of a bagful of mercury ointment once a day and a follow-up visit after 6 days, but the man never returns. The physician advises him that his wife needs to be examined also, but she is never seen in the clinic.

The doctor remembers many other cases of secondary syphilis in the community. Except for one young woman, patients seem to have little fear of the disease. Children and even entire families are infected. The physician decides to tackle the widespread venereal disease and to confront the rampant patient apathy in the district.

His weapons include mercury ointment, potassium iodide, Salvarsan (an arsenic compound) injections, harsh words, and warnings about the horrible effects of the disease if left untreated. He opens an inpatient unit to treat patients with syphilis. Now long-removed from that remote medical outpost, the narrator still wonders about the people living there.

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Super Size Me

Spurlock, Morgan

Last Updated: Oct-22-2004
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Morgan Spurlock decides to test the effects of fast food by eating nothing but food from McDonald's, three meals a day, for thirty days. Three physicians and a dietician are involved from the outset and track his rapidly increasing weight and declining health. Along the way he visits McDonald's outlets around the US, interviewing workers and fast food enthusiasts, and considers the implications of a recent lawsuit brought against McDonald's by customers who blame the company for their obesity.

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Evidence of Things Unseen

Wiggins, Marianne

Last Updated: Oct-12-2004
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This book interweaves an American love story with the development and repercussions of x-ray technology and atomic energy. It is an intriguing and beautifully written story. The setting is the southeastern United States, where the male protagonist, Fos, meets and marries Opal. Fos is a returning World War I veteran when the story begins; the story ends some years after the atomic bomb is dropped in World War II.

Fos is stationed in France during World War I. His assignment is to produce chemical flares. He shares a trench bunker with "Flash," the regiment photographer. After the war is over, Fos and Flash open up a photography shop in Flash's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Fos is fascinated by natural phenomena such as phosphorescence, radiation, and the application of scientific discoveries for practical use. Flash is a good businessman and has a way with the ladies.

After Fos marries Opal, the three are in business together--Opal has accounting experience and handles the shop's "books." On the side, Fos and Opal have a traveling show that features an "x-ray box" where people can view the skeleton of their own feet. Opal is part of the show, on exhibit to demonstrate how this works as Fos x-rays her feet. A baby comes into their lives--they name him Lightfoot. The novel takes these characters and a few other connected figures through the 1920s into the Depression of the 1930s and formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, to the work on the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Fos is recruited by the government to work at Oak Ridge--to take photographs. To say any more about the plot would spoil the pleasure of reading this absorbing book.

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Sweet Thames

Kneale, Matthew

Last Updated: Jul-26-2004
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The young and upwardly mobile engineer, Joshua Jeavons, is obsessed with finding a solution to the water problems of 19th-century London. He spends almost every spare moment drawing and re-drawing maps of his precious drainage plans destined to save the city from the stench of effluent, which everyone believes is the source of cholera. His boss, Augustus Moynahan, is unimpressed with Joshua's plans, but allows him to continue analyzing sewers and drains. They work in conjunction with a master plan of coercive bureaucrats, led by Edwin Sleak Cunningham and manipulated by private interest.

Joshua has married the boss's daughter, Isobella, who had seemed more than eager to have him over her father's objections; however, she rebuffs all his physical attentions and the marriage is unconsummated. Brimming with sexual need and self-pity, Joshua continues a sporadic liaison with a friendly prostitute, all the while resenting what he decides must be his wife's infidelity.

When Isobella vanishes on the night of a disastrous dinner party, Joshua's fortunes plummet. He is reduced to poverty and shame, as he replaces his first obsession with the quest for his lost spouse--to reclaim her or kill her, he knows not. But his contact with urchins and beggars brings him to discover the real causes of pollution and disease--both environmental and moral.

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Excellent People

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Apr-21-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Vladimir Semyonich Liadovsky fancies himself a literary man; he writes book reviews. His sister, Vera Semyonovna, is a young widowed physician who doesn't practice. She lives with Vladimir and does nothing but lie around and wonder, "What is the meaning of non-resistance to evil?" As she becomes more obsessed with this question, her relationship with her brother worsens.

Finally, she abruptly announces that she is leaving--she will go into the provinces to do vaccination work. Vladimir doesn't regret her leaving. He continues to write his articles, falls ill, and dies. The narrator doesn't know what happened to Vera.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

St. Luke’s Hospital was founded in 1750 to provide free care to the impoverished mentally ill. It mixed benevolence with "unconscious cruelty" in the treatments used by the "practitioners of old," from restraints and drugs to swings and a key to force-feed recalcitrant patients. Dickens describes this gloomy edifice as he saw it on December 26, 1851, although he notes a "seasonable garniture" of holly.

The inhabitants of St. Luke’s largely sit in solitude. Dickens decries the absence of "domestic articles to occupy . . . the mind" in one gallery holding several silent, melancholy women, and praises the comfortable furnishings--and the relative "earnestness and diligence" of the inmates--in another. He uses statistics to show the prevalence of female patients, "the general efficacy of the treatment" at St. Luke’s, and the unhealthy weight gain of the inhabitants due to inactivity. Dickens describes the behavior of various distinctive inhabitants during the usual fortnightly dance, the viewing of a Christmas tree, and the distribution of presents.

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