A Medical Profile Of George Washington

Stalwart as he was, the general was often ill. A doctor studies his record and notes shortcomings in Eighteenth-Century medical care.

If one looks closely at Gilbert Stuart’s well-known portrait of George Washington, one observes an artificial bulging of the cheeks, as if they had been stuffed with cotton.

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Before & After

Cosmetic surgery was born 2,500 years ago and came of age in the inferno of the Western Front. The controversy about it is still growing.

In A Moveable Feast , Ernest Hemingway’s celebration of the long cocktail party that was Paris in the twenties, he pays tribute to the war veterans who frequented the Café Lilas and describes “the quality of their artificial eyes and the degree of skill with which their faces had been reconstructed.

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How Prozac Slew Freud

In the past hundred years psychiatry has come full circle: Psychoanalysis lost; medicine won

Not long ago I was lecturing in my course on medical history about people who had accused themselves of smearing feces on a crucifix or committing some equally sacrilegious act. In fact their beliefs had been delusional. They had done nothing of the kind, but one manifestation of their illness was this untrue self-reproach.

After the lecture an older student, a woman in her thirties, came up to me and said, “I’d like to talk to you.” Read more »


IN A HARD WAR theirs may have been the hardest job of all. But together with Army doctors and Army nurses, they worked something very close to a miracle in the European theater.


It wasn’t any different getting killed in World War II than in the Civil War, but if the shrapnel, bullet, or tree limb wounded a GI without killing him, his experience as a casualty was infinitely better. The medical team, from the medics in the field to the nurses and doctors in the tent-city hospitals, compiled a remarkable record. More than 8 percent of the soldiers who underwent emergency operations in a mobile field or evacuation hospital survived. Read more »

Rescue Squad

a million men and women serve two-thirds of the country in a crucial volunteer service that began only recently—and only because a nine-year-old boy witnessed a drowning


ON A WARM MAY AFTERNOON IN 1909 THE quiet along the river in Roanoke, Virginia, is broken by cries for help. Two canoeists have capsized. Bystanders rush to the banks, throw branches toward the foundering men. It is in vain. The swift current carries them under; they drown. A nine-year-old boy watches them perish. Read more »

How Did Lincoln Die?

Everyone knows that the ball John Wilkes Booth fired into Abraham Lincoln’s brain inflicted a terrible, mortal wound. But when a prominent neurosurgeon began to investigate the assassination, he discovered persuasive evidence that Lincoln’s doctors must share the blame with Booth’s derringer. Without their treatment the President might very well have lived. Read more »


America looked good to a high school senior then, and that year looks wonderfully safe to us now, but it was a time of tumult for all that, and there were plenty of shadows along with the sunshine

It was a very good year. Certainly it was if you were seventeen. I was a senior in high school in 1954, a member of the class of January 1955, at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. They told us these were the best years of our lives, so we had better enjoy them. We all laughed at that, of course, but as I look back, they may have been right, particularly in September of 1954, when the first Thunderbird and the totally new 1955 Chevy V-8 lit up our limited horizons. Read more »

Cigarette Century

In the past seventy years, while several major diseases have been eradicated, one has risen from obscurity to take its place among the nation’s leading killers

The patient at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, in 1919, might have wondered during his last days why all the physicians were so peculiarly interested in his case. When the man died, Dr. George Dock, chairman of the department of medicine, asked all third-and fourth-year medical students at the teaching hospital to observe the autopsy. The patient’s disease had been so rare, he said, that most of them would never see it again. The disease was lung cancer. Read more »

How America’s Health Care Fell Ill

As modern medicine has grown ever more powerful, our ways of providing it and paying for it have gotten ever more wasteful, unaffordable, and unfair. An explanation and a possible first step toward a solution.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about modern medicine is just how very, very modern it is. Ninety percent of the medicine being practiced today did not exist in 1950. Just two centuries ago medicine was an art, not a science at all, and people—whistling past the graveyard—joked that the difference between English doctors and French ones was that French doctors killed you while English ones let you die.Read more »

Bellevue No One Was Ever Turned Away

With its roots in the medically benighted eighteenth century, and its history shaped by the needs of the urban poor, Bellevue has emerged on its 250th anniversary as a world-renowned center of modern medicine

Bellevue Hospital, the oldest hospital in the United States, turned 250 last year. It started as a six-bed ward for the poor, part of an almshouse on lower Broadway, back in 1736, when New York had a population of about nine thousand. As the city grew, Bellevue grew. By 1810 the population of New York was 96,373 and the city fathers were looking for a place to build a real hospital. They purchased a part of what was then Kip’s Bay Farm, between what is now Second Avenue and the East River, around Twenty-eighth Street.Read more »