Patient’s Position, Hospital Bed & A Misnomer

Today’s hospital bed is a combined invention of GR Fowler (position), WD Gatch (bed) & Andrew Wuest and Son (mattress).

1861. Long Island, Jamaica. A thirteen-year-old boy joined as an apprentice in his father’s railroad repair shop. Five years back, he came to Jamaica with his family from New York city. His father was a master mechanic and established the railway repair shop. The boy was learning telegram and other jobs in his father’s shop.Few years later. A major accident occurred in the repair shop. Few workers became severely injured. The young boy came forward to aid the victims. The incident moved the boy and changed his life. And also the Art of Surgery.

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The farmer who first inoculated cowpox (1774)

Jesty Book
Image © Wellcome Collection / London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The global history of immunization shows some amazing creativity in terms of documentation. Keeping aside the science and art of discovery to delivery of vaccines, there were numerous people, outside scientific fields, enriched the history with their creativity. Apart from the scientific papers, the history of immunization had been documented by paintings, literature, folk arts, photographs, poetry, and many other forms. For example, Athenian historian and General Thucydides, who scientifically documented the Peloponnesian War (430 BC) and thus the scientific world came to know about the Plague of Athens (430 BC), including the symptoms of the victims during the epidemic. Or for example, the metaphorical connection between the famous rhyme “Ring a Ring o’ Rosie” with the Great Plague of England (1665) as described by noted English folklorists Lona and Peter Opie.

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The Most Powerful Photograph Against Vaccine Hesitancy, Ever (1953)

Peter Salk
© March of Dime Foundation

As a commissioned health science photographer, I have encountered a few cases of vaccine hesitancy (reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated) which I have documented. Being a person of visual communication, I am always searching for a frame that is powerful yet positive enough to break the hesitancy. I have not succeeded yet, at least not very convincing to me. But 67 years ago an unknown photographer already did it, that popped up during my recent photo research on global vaccination. And it immediately became my all-time favorite image against vaccine hesitancy. Let me tell the background story and narrate the photograph in terms of composition and visual literacy.

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Measles, War and Intelligence (1862)

Image © Library of Congress

While doing some photo research on historical archival images of global vaccination, I came across this simple yet powerful image that struck me. A very straight forward, properly exposed environmental portrait of a person without any dramatic appearance that was captured in September 1862. But the guy was not straight at all. To know about this person we have to dig deep into the history of the American civil war.

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Diphtheria, Dogs, and Delivery of antitoxins (1925)

Image © Central Park, NYC

The world is desperately searching for a vaccine to fight against COVID-19. And New York City is one of the worst affected cities around the globe. Let me tell you an amazingly positive story connected to the vaccination and the Central Park of New York City.

While doing some photo research on historical archival images of global vaccination, an image of a dog suddenly stuck me. A bronzed sculpture of the dog stands in Central Park at Manhattan of New York City – currently one of the worst affected cities by COVID-19 in the world.

Balto, the name of the dog whom the Central Park is mentioned as “a bronzed hero, near the Tisch Children’s Zoo, who stands ready to accept hugs and offer rides to his admiring fans“. To know Balto (1919 – 1933), we have to go back to 1925. An outbreak of diphtheria in Alaska. The Great Race of Mercy.

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Bell’s Opisthotonos

“Tetanus Following Gunshot Wounds” by Sir Charles Bell (1809).

This is probably the most famous image of opisthotonos, due to the extrapyramidal lesion caused by tetanus, created 75 years before the discovery of its causative bacteria Clostridium tetani. The painting was the creation of Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842), a Scottish surgeon, anatomist, physiologist, neurologist, artist & philosophical theologian, who gifted medical world the terminologies like Bell’s Palsy, Bell’s phenomenon, and Bell’s law etc. The horror and anguish of Clostridium tetani was depicted by Sir Charles Bell in his paintings, in which he illustrated a soldier locked tight due to agonising tetany.

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Cavern To Canvas: Illustrations and Paintings in Medicine

Work of Andreas Vesalius (Source: The Halycon; Issue No. 49, June 2012, ISSN 0840–5565)

A common error is to think of medical photography as just one new specialty among many, yet medical illustration is as old as medicine itself and the present is only a very short interval of time between the past and the future. [1]

This is an invariable truth that paintings and illustrations are as old as mankind itself and photography itself is too young to compare. The precursor of photography was the Camera Obscura (Latin; camera for “vaulted chamber/room”, obscura for “dark”), which was invented only in 1457 and was mostly used by artists only as an aid to painting. Hence, the history of medical illustration cannot be ignored, as it has grown over a period of time that is much older the than concept of medical photography.

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