Friday, October 30, 2015

1519: Cortes, Spaniards destroy American culture

The Spanish Conquistadors were known to keep their shoes on for several days, and rarely bathed. So they must have presented as rancid smelling people, compared to the natives they encountered in America.

The Aztec, the Inca and the Maya were known to bathe daily in the lakes and streams, and wash their faces and hands after meals. They even took steam bath as part of their healing and religious ceremonies. (Hakim) All of this must have really impressed upon the rancid smelling Spaniards. (Foster)

Given this picture, it's hard to picture in my mind how Montezuma, the king of the Aztec, could have possibly believed that Cortes was the god sent from the Heavens to save the Aztecs. You would think that if Cortes was an Aztec god, when he took off his shoes you would have found gold and silver, as opposed to maggots. Unfortunately Montezuma, in his utter surprise, was caught off guard. Instead of responding as the vigilance of the Alexander-the-Great-type warrior he was, he hesitated. And it was perhaps this brief hesitation that allowed Cortes the opportunity to destroy all that was left of the mighty Aztec civilization.

Since the materia medica contained religious content, even they were destroyed. This made it so historians had a tough time recreating the history of these great people. The Spaniards did such a good job of burning the contents of Mayan structures, that even to this day historians have trouble understanding their civilization, and why their great cities were abandoned in 1200 A.D. Lacking a Mayan Rosetta Stone, linguists still struggle to understand the Mayan language.

Surely the history of mankind is a history of wars, but the way the various civilizations of MesoAmerica met their demise is especially troubling, and sad. Yet that's the way it is (was).

The Spanish went through all the Aztec, Inca and Mayan structures and burned all that would burn, with the intent of replacing native American culture with their own. They went through all temples and burned the contents, including the medical documents. Where Aztec temples to the gods once stood, Catholic Churches were created. In the process, the Spaniards destroyed nearly all knowledge of the once mighty and proud native American civilizations.

Yet thankfully not even the Spaniards could destroy everything. Some documents did survive, including one book that has helped historians understand the health and healing process among the Maya. This book is called the "Ritual of the Bacads."

RT Cave Facebook Page
RT Cave on Twitter
Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

1453: The world wakes up to science

Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
From about the time of Jesus to the Renaissance of the 16th century, there were few advances in medicine and science. The Greek terms asthma and dyspnea had made their way into the vocabularies of physicians, yet little was considered about their causes. Theories speculated air contained a life-giving substance, although what it contained was left to speculation.  That was all about to change. 

Up until this time the works of the famous Greco-Roman physician Claudius Galen of the 2nd century were considered the gold standard in medicine.  Science wasn't needed, because everything any physician could possibly need to know about any diseases and air was in one of Galen's books 
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

This started to change when the dark ages ended with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This is believed by many historians to have ended the dark ages and sparked a Renaissance where lost Greek and Roman wisdom was recaptured.

It was in 1514 that Galen's reign as supreme master and god of medical superstitions took a major hit. This was the year Nicolaus Copernicus was questioning the belief that the Earth was the center of the Universe and started writing his theories about the earth rotating the sun. Out of fear of being rejected and maybe even killed, his works weren't published until eight years after his death in 1543.

This one event got many people to thinking, or, better yet, inspired thinkers to become courageous, thus gave birth to the age of reason, or the Renaissance. This was a time people started questioning the views that were etched in stone by the Ancient Greeks and followed through the Middle Ages.

This was a time of fresh ideas based on science as opposed to superstitions and false logic. New ideas were formed in physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, alchemy and medicine.

Copernicus was the first to use scientific research as opposed to superstitions in science (at least he was the first to publish such results).

Perhaps among the most significant contributions to science came from Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), who in 1543 discovered that the planets revolve around the sun.  Out of fear of persecution, his works weren't published until after his death, although they had an astounding impact on other great minds, thus opening the door for the scientific revolution that followed.

Galileo Galileo was the first to oppose the Church during his lifetime. As a result Galileo became famous, and because of this he is now called the father of modern science.

In 1609 Galileo Galilee  (1564-1642) invented the telescope,  (1, page 255), and continued on to make astronomical observations that supported the works of Copernicus.  He had the courage to face the dogmatic Church, and published his works during his lifetime.  As a result, he was arrested for heresy and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.  His energy, courage and sacrifices, however, made him a significant player in the scientific revolution.  By history, he is considered among the fathers of modern physics and science.

Fielding Hudson Garrison, in his book "Introduction to the history of medicine," said that the works of investigators such as Copernicus and Galileo, and other such great men, also had an impact on medicine.  For example, in 1600 Galileo invented a "rude thermometer or thermoscope, and as early as 1600 (Johannes) Kepler had used pulse-counting to time his astronomic observations."  (1, page 258)

Surely investigators studied the stars and planets, they also studied plants, animals and humans, learning much about anatomy, how life is created and sustained, and about diseases.  Also investigated was the air we breathe, and its relationship with the sustenance of life.

Thanks to these two men, over the next few hundred years diseases like asthma would be better understood, and theories about air and the purpose of breathing would be proven false and replaced with scientific fact.

  1. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "Introduction to the history of medicine," 1921, 
RT Cave Facebook Page
RT Cave on Twitter
Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, October 26, 2015

1492: Columbus discovers tobacco

Effigy Pipe similar to what Columbus may have seen (4)
What would the profession of respiratory be like if it weren't for all the good folks who smoked pipes, cigars and cigarettes? There would probably still be work for us, although barely as much.

Today, as we travel back in our time machine, we find ourselves in a year of discovery.  It's 1492 and Christopher sets off on a journey across the Atlantic seeking the Indies, China and gold to take back to the king.  He was promised a 10 percent profit, and fame.  While he obtained the fame, he did so by discovering tobacco for the Old World, not by finding any gold or other riches.

He and his men were introduced to dried leaves, although they had no idea what they were used for, nor what to do with them.  So they basically cast them away to the dismay of the American Natives, of whom they referred to as the Indios because they thought they were in the Indonesian Islands. (1, page 16) (2, page 4

A few months into his journey, now convinced he was in China, he set two of his men -- Luis De Torres and Rodrigo de Xerex -- off on a journey to meet the Great Khan.  They never found the Khan because they were not in China.  What the two men did find was later recounted by Spanish writer Bartoleme de las Casas: (2, page 16)  
"The two Christians met many men and women who were carrying glowing coals in their hands, as well as good smelling herbs. They were dried plants, like small muskets made of paper that children play with during the Easter festivities. They set one end on fire and inhaled and drank the smoke in the other. It is said that in this way they become sleepy and drunk, but also they got rid of their tiredness. The people called these small muskets tobacco."
In this way, even while they weren't aware of it, Christopher Columbus introduced the Old World to tobacco, and the inhalation of tobacco. Although in his journal the night Torres and Xerex returned from their journey, Columbus merely marked the events off as trivial, writing: (2, page 18)
"My two people met many people crossing their path to reach their villages, men and women, carrying in their hand a burning brand and burning herbs which they use to produce fragrant smoke."I
It's possible by writing "fragrant smoke," Columbus was referring to the use of smoke in Europe mainly as a means of producing good smells.  It's also possible the men explained the natives blowing the smoke in their faces, which may have been a showing of respect to the men of whom they believed were gods.  (2, page 18)

On many occasions Columbus mentioned the natives standing around watching them and smoking the leaves of tobacco with their muskets.  Yet there was no mention of whether or not Columbus brought any of the stuff back with him to Spain.  But Rodrego de Xerex stuffed some tobacco into his pockets, made his own musket for smoking it, and became addicted.

As a side story here, Xerex was seen smoking by the Spaniards, who believed he was smoking because he came back cursed.  He was stripped of his riches and thrown into jail.  Yet it wouldn't be long after the death of Columbus that more Europeans would become addicted to tobacco

Others set sail to the New World.  Amerigo Vespucci is mainly known as the first person to describe American Natives chewing tobacco.  Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernandz de Oviedo y Valdes later described from Haiti:
The caciques, or principle men, have hollow sticks about a span long less than the thickness of the smallest finger. These tubes have two channels, merging into one. And these they put into their nostrils and the other end in the smoke of the burning herb …. And they breathe in the smoke, once, twice, thrice, or as often as they can, until they lose their senses, and for a great space they lie stretched out on the ground without intelligence and stupefied as in a dream. It is to this instrument with which they inhale the smoke that the Indians gave the name tobacco and not to the herb or the resulting stupor, as some have believed. (3, 4)
Another method described of inhaling tobacco smoke was by inhaling it:
The smoker would use a hollow, Y-shaped cane, similar in appearance to a slingshot but not as wide across the top.  He would pack the top ends into his nostril and place the bottom at the tip of his musket, breathing in the smoke through this device, working up a holy buzz.  (1, page 17)
Throughout the 16th century various native tribes in both South and North America were observed inhaling the smoke of tobacco via pipes.  Joseph C. Winter, in his book "Tobacco use by Native North Americans," explained that in 1518 tobacco seeds made their way back to Spain, and soon thereafter tobacco was "rapidly taken around the world." (5, page 3)

Winter said tobacco is among the genus Nicotiana, "which along with 95 other genera, belongs to the Solanaccaea family of plants.  This large and important family has given humanity dozens of useful plants in addition to tobacco, such as potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, eggplants, petunias, jimsonweed, henbane, mandrake, beladonna, and many other edible fruits, vegetables and tubers, as well as ornamentals, drugs, and medicinal plants." (5, page 3)

Winter also said that tobacco is indigenous to both South and North America, and that it was...
...probably domesticated many thousands of years ago in South America, then slowly carried north from one Indian campsite to another through Central America and Mexico all the way to the eastern woodlands of North America, where it arrived by about A.D. 160.  It appears to have been introduced into the southwestern United States by A.D 720, if not earlier.  Seeds of what is probably this very important species have been discovered throughout the eastern woodlands, as well as in the U.S., Southwest and Mexico.  It is mainly smoked in pipes and cornhusk cigarettes. (5, page 4)
By 1545 Iroquois tribes were observed smoking tobacco pipes.  (5, page 2)

Virgil J. Vogul said the...
...Menominees inhaled tobacco smoke to induce a narcotic state.  The blowing of tobacco smoke into the ear for earache was reported in this century among the Chickahominys, the Mohegans, and the Malecites... Louisiana Choctaws blew tobacco smoke on snakebites." (2, page 380-385)
Various tribes throughout the Americas participated in smoking rituals, some of which involved in passing the pipe (carved out of either stone or wood) from warrior to warrior as a peace offering.  There is no knowledge as to when tobacco was first inhaled in the Americas, and therefore no proof that native Americans were the first to inhale smoke from a pipe, which, for all practical purposes, is an inhaler. (6, page (380-385)

Winter also notes that Jimsonweed and other relatives of the datura family of plants were also smoked by various tribes, producing a hallucinogenic effect, although tobacco continued to be the most common plant smoked in the Americas.  (3, page 31)

Some Americans recognized, as had the ancient Egyptians and natives of India --Atropa Belladonna and Atropa Strammonium come from the Solanaccaea family of plants, that these agents also have a mild bronchodilating effect, working well for people with breathing difficulties, such as asthma.

Regardless, this was how the inhalation of smoke made its way from the Americas to Europe.  It wouldn't be until the 18th century that inhalation of medicinal smoke would be introduced from India to Europe and America.

  1. Burns, Eric, "The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco," 
  2. Davis, Kenneth C., "Don't Know Much About History: Anniversary Edition: Everything You Need To Know About American History But Never Learned," 2011, New York, Harper Collins
  3. Castiglioni, Arturo, Ciba Pharmaceutical Products, Inc., "Tobacco: Volume 4," 1943, 31 pages (need better reference), also this quote can be found on reference #4 below (
  4. Maus, Jim, "An Extraordinary NC Raven Effigy Pipe,",, accessed 9/22/12
  5. Winter, Joseph C., "Tobacco use by Native North Americans," Joseph C. Winter, editor, 2000, The University of Oklahoma Press
  6. Vogel, Virgil J., "American Indian Medicine," 1970, London, Oklahoma University Press
RT Cave Facebook Page
RT Cave on Twitter
Print Friendly and PDF

1268: Bacon discovers carbon dioxide

Roger Bacon was perhaps the first to conceiveof the idea
 that a substance, later called carbon dioxide,
was in the air in cellars where grapeswere fermenting.
 He does not get credit for the discovery of CO2, however.  
Even though Galen's theories about air held sway over the scientific community, there were various great minds along the way that doubted Galen, and based on their own observations, set out to perform experiments that would prove Galen wrong.

Roger Bacon (1213-1294) was born in Kilchester in Somersetshireto to a wealthy family when Henry III (1207-1272) was the King of England.  He spent 8-10,000 pounds performing his own experiments, went to Oxford, "where his great abilities were soon recognized."  He then moved to Paris, "the center of intellectual learning at the time," said historian Thomas Bradford. (14, page 112)

He was "disgusted with the superficial scholastic methods at the time, and devoted himself to the study of languages and experimental research," said Bradford.  (14, page 112)

Bradford said he ended up back at Oxford by 1250 and found himself a member of the Fransiscan order. (4, pages 112-113)
 "His fame spread at Oxford, although it was whispered that he had dealings in magic and the black arts.  Some doubts of his orthodoxy were expressed, and in 1257 Bonaventura, the General of his orders, forbade his lectures at Oxford, and commanded him to leave the town and place himself under the command of the body in Paris.  There he remained for ten years under constant supervision, suffering great privations, and not allowed to write anything that might be published." (4, pages 112-113)
During his life there was much scorn and animosity toward the medical profession and science in general, although somehow he gained the respect of Pope Clement IV (1195-1268) who "wrote to Bacon ordering him, notwithstanding the interdict of his superiors, to write out and send him a treaties on the sciences. Previous to this he, discouraged, had composed but little; but taking heart of grace and despite of the many obstacles thrown in his way by the jealousy of his superiors and brother friars, he completed in 18 months three large treatises, the Opus Magnus, Opus Minus and Opus Tertium. In 1268, Bacon was released and allowed to return to Oxford, where he continued his labors in experimental science, and in completing his numerous treatises. He wrote a great many works on alchemy, philosophy and physics." (14, page 113)

So Bacon's life is yet another example of how hard it was for great minds in this era to perform experiments, and to get their works published.  However, he made the observation that air in cellars where grapes were fermenting was not normal, and prolonged exposure resulted in mental changes and possibly death.  He determined there was a substance in this that he called gas sylvestre.  This gas later became known as carbon dioxide.

  1. Tissier
  2. Lagerkvist, Ulf, "The Enigma of Ferment," 2005, Singapore, World Scientific Publishing
  3. Potter, Elizabeth, "Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases," 2001, Indiana University Press
  4. Newman, William R, et al, "Alchemy Tried in the Fire," 2002, University of Chicago
  5. Lehrs, Ernst, "Man or Matter," 1958, Great Britain, Whistable Litho Ltd.
  6. Jindel, S.K., "Oxygen Therapy," 2008, pages 5-8
  7. Hill, Leonard, Benjamin Moore, Arthur Phillip Beddard, John James Rickard, etc., editors, "Recent Advances in Physiology and bio-chemistry," 1908, London, Edward Arnold
  8. Hamilton, William, "A History of Medicine, Surgery and Anatomy," 1831, Vol. I, London, New Burlington
  9. Osler, William Henry, "The evolution of Modern Medicine: A series of lectures delivered at Yale University on the Sillman Foundation in April, 1913," 1921, New Haven, Yale University Press
  10. Osler, ibid, pages 170, reference referring to William Harvey: Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus, Francofurti, 1628, G. Moreton's facsimile reprint and translation, Canterbury, 1894, p. 48. 20 Ibid., p. 49.
  11. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "Introduction to the history of medicine," 1921, London, 
  12. Baker, Christopher, editor, "The Great Cultural Eras of the Western World: Absolutism and the Scientific Revolution 1600-1720: A biographical dictionary," 2002, CT, Greenwood Publishing; Herman Boerhavve published Biblia Naturae (Bible of Nature) in 1737, which was a two volume compilation of the works of Jan Swammerdam. Can you read Latin?
  13. Garrison, op cit, 266; (Samuel) Pepy's Diary, Mynors Bright's ed., London, 1900, v, 191
  14. Bradford, Thomas Lindsley, writer, Robert Ray Roth, editor, “Quiz questions on the history of medicine from the lectures of Thomas Lindley Bradford M.D.,” 1898, Philadelphia, Hohn Joseph McVey
  15. Brock, Arthur John, "Galen on the natural faculties," 1916, London, New York, William Heinemann, G.P. Putnam's Sons
  16. "History of Chemistry,",, accessed 7/6/14
RT Cave Facebook Page
RT Cave on Twitter
Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, October 25, 2015

1576: Cardano finds new remedy for asthma?

Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576)
It was sort of by chance that our next subject enters our history of asthma.  His name was Gerolamo Cardano, and he's often given credit as the first to suspect asthma was a reaction to substances in the air around us, and the best remedy was avoidance of such substances.  

The story goes that he was born illegitimately in 1501 to a lawyer who taught him mathematics.  He was a brilliant child, and highly critical, so he was not well liked.  Realizing he had a mental advantage over others, he became consumed by the gambling bug.  These vices would plague him his entire life.

Yet while a vice of his own making, his gambling worked to the advantage of everyone as this is what lead him to devising his rules of probability, which ultimately lead him to becoming one of the founders of that field.

In 1524, he used this newly obtained wisdom to write a book called "Liber de ludo aleae" which translates into "Book on games of chance."  Yet this book would not be published until 1663.

He earned his medical degree in 1525 and set up a small practice that didn't take off mainly due to his reputation.  So he returned to gambling, and it got so bad that he had to barter off his wife's jewelry and some furniture.  (1)

Cardano wrote over 130 books
Eventually he was able to get a job teaching math in Milan that afforded him free time to get his practice going. After curing a few patients, his reputation improved and he was admitted into the College of Physicians in 1539.   (1)

This was when his writing career took off.  He published books on mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, theology and mathematics.   He became famous for his ability to create and solve equations.  His most famous book was an algebra book published in 1545 called "Ars Magna." (1)  

He became professor of medicine at Pravia University and became rich and even more famous.  In his quest to study asthma, and develop his own remedies, he took up the task of reading Maimonides Treaties on Asthma.  It was about this time, in 1552, he was summoned by one of the richest and most famous men in the world to solve a stubborn case of the asthma.

John Hamilton was the Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Andrews and a member of a famous family in Scotland, and he was struck with a pretty bad case of asthma. His doctor believed his asthma was caused because his brain was cold and this caused phlegm to build up in the chest, yet Hamilton's asthma did not get better by any of his "warming" therapies, such as making rooms hot and smoky. (4)
Cardano in 1553
Desperate for a remedy, Hamilton summoned Cardano who immediately accepted the invitation. After examining Hamilton's habits for six weeks Cardano decided Hamilton's asthma was caused by too much heat and not too much cold.  His asthma, thus, was caused by a life of luxury and venery. (2)

Cardanos remedies were designed to cool the body:
  1. A simple life
  2. Cold water to the head followed by cold water showers
  3. Inhalations of elaterium
  4. Aplications of an ointment of tar, mustard, euphorbium (derived from herb sometimes called 'asthma weed', honey, of anthardus, and blister-fly to the skull
  5. No feathers under his pillow (silk, straw and seaweed instead)
  6. No fires in the fireplace (2)
Hamilton's health almost immediately improved.  Cardano was paid heavily for his cure, not just in finances but by improved fame. He published his remedies in his book "Consilia," which is a report on individual cases and the treatments that worked.

Many writers have given him credit as the first to recognize allergens and to suspect that allergen avoidance will prevent asthma. 

Yet not so fast.  The truth is Cardano might simply have been lucky.  You see, he, like many physicians -- including Hamilton's former physician -- believed diseases were caused by an imbalance of the four humors.  

Cardano didn't believe that feathers, fires and smoke triggered asthma per se, he believed they produced heat, causing a humoral imbalance.  Still, Hamilton avoided these things, and his asthma got better, many other asthmatics of the era avoided those things too, and, in many cases, their asthma got better too.

Ars Magna
Yet Cardano's good fortune would end.  His daughter died of syphilis after years of selling herself as a prostitute, although her death spearheaded one of the earliest ever books on the condition.

His eldest of four sons was convicted of poisoning his wife and this son was beheaded in 1560.  Another son was a gambler.  Cardano was now the father of a killer, and he became a hated man.  He was relieved of his post as professor of medicine at Privia.  

To make matters worse he was convicted of heresy for casting the horoscope of Jesus, and spent time in jail for that.   He bequested the help of Hamilton to get him off the hook, and Hamilton was able to convince authorities to release the physician.  Yet Hamilton himself was soon therafter hanged.

Throughout his colorful life he wrote over 130 books.  And while he's remembered mainly for his accomplishments in algebra, the story of how he cured the archbishop of his asthma is one we asthmatics will cherish forever.

He later admitted himself he lost a lot of time and accomplishments by his gambling, which included chess and poker.  He passed away in 1576 with 100 books left unfinished. In his will dated 1566, his advice to his eldest son's boy Fazio was to avoid gambling.  

  1.  Gerolamo Cardano,,, accessed 7/4/14 
  2. Jackson, mark, "Asthma: The Biography," 2006, New York
RT Cave Facebook Page
RT Cave on Twitter
Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, October 24, 2015

1500: The quest for the philosopher's stone

An alchemist in search of the philosopher's stone in his laboratory.
If you lived with asthma in the medieval world, during the 16th or 17th centuries, perhaps you believed in the power of the philosopher's stone, or that by working ardently in their laboratories an alchemist would discover a substance that would heal all sickness, and offer eternal life with vast riches and unlimited wisdom.

To understand about the philosophers stone we have to travel back in time to the beginning of the world, to a time when the gods realized they were tired of living alone and were eager to create a planet and populate it with people to keep them company. One god had the power to take the four basic elements -- fire, earth, water and air -- to form the sun and all the planets.

He was called Thoth in ancient Egypt, Hermes Trismegistos in ancient Greece, and Mercury in ancient Rome.  He was the messenger to the gods and had access to all the wisdom of the world, and therefore was the first philosopher.  While he was a god in mythology, it's also possible he was an actual person at one time, only turned into a god by his legacy.

As secretary to the gods, he had access to all the wisdom of the heavens.  As messenger, he had the ability to communicate with philosophers on earth. Perhaps the first people he communicated with were the ancient Egyptians, of whom we find our first evidence that alchemy and chemistry was practiced.

As we learned earlier in this history, the term "khemi" comes from the Egyptian term for 'the black earth,' which is in reference to the black soil of the great Nile River.  Yet the terms 'al' and 'khemi' are Arabic terms.  (7, page 21-22)

It was by communicating with the god Thoth, Egyptian philosophers were able to learn all the wisdom of the god.  In this way, they learned the esoteric wisdom necessary to blend various substances in order to create an elixir of life.  It was also by this process that lead to many of the medicines used by Egyptian priest/physicians.  They, in essence, became the first chemists and alchemists.

Through the ancient philosophers Thoth wrote 40 books filled with all the knowledge that he was willing to share.  Since they called him Hermes, the Greeks referred to these writings as the Hermetic Books.  Since they were thought to have been written on an emerald tablet, some refer to them as the 'emerald tablet.'

Regardless, the pages of the Hermetic books contained the wisdom Thoth/Hermes/Mercury used to create the cosmos.  While the book is lost, it is thought that this first philosopher used the four basic elements and combined: (5, page 28)
  • Philosophical Salt, which is all wisdom
  • Mercury, which is personal skill and application
  • Sulphur, which is vital energy and fire of will (5, page 28)(4, page 366)
These primordial substances are often referred to as "the substances of the philosophers and not those commonly designed by these names, said Grillot de Givry, in his 1931 book "Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy." (4, page 365)

No one knew what was formed by combining these three substances. Since many thought it was stone, it's often referred to as the philosopher's stone. Yet some thought it was a powdery substance used to create a magical elixir, an elixir of life, that would turn basic items into precious items, base metals -- such as copper, aluminum, cobalt, iron and lead -- into precious gold. It would reveal all wisdom, and heal all wounds, and cure all sickness, and create immortality.

Alchemists believed that by working arduously in their laboratories mixing this chemical and that chemical, perhaps by heating them in their athenor (type of furnace that was capable of maintaining a uniform and durable heat for a long time, according to, they would ultimately create a natural environment for a substance similar to the philosopher's stone to form.

After the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th century A.D., they absorbed all the Egyptian knowledge of chemistry and alchemy. During the 11th century, European crusaders returned to Europe with Arabic wisdom, including knowledge of alchemy and the quest for the philosopher's stone. (7, page 247)

The stone, or powder, or whatever the primordial substance was, captured the imaginations of some of Europe's most impressive minds, including Paracelsus, Roger Bacon, Pope John XXII, Jon Baptiste van Helmont, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, and Raymond Lilly, among others.

Because these men must have worked as alchemists sureptitiously, they are often known as chemists. Either way, many went on to make significant contributions to both science and medicine.

Roger Bacon (1214-1294) was one of the early alchemists who lived in England. He performed many experiments and made many discoveries for the medical community, although what held him back, and created angst among the orthodoxy, was the belief that he was also dealing in magic and the black arts. As with other alchemists, he was also a believer in the philosopher's stone. While it was a challenge, he did manage to get his ideas published. (3, page 112-113)

Paracelsus (1493-1541) was an alchemist who believed all other elements -- earth, fire, water and air -- were derived from this element that was yet to be found, and the mysterious element was indeed the philosopher's stone.

While some chemists openly dabbled in alchemy as Bacon and Paracelsus did, some secretly dabbled in order to avoid the risks associated with being accused of dealing in magic, the black arts, or witchcraft.

Fielding Hudson Garrison, in his book "An introduction to the history of medicine," said:
Although the making of gold and silver and other magic practices was opposed by the Church in the famous bulls , "Spondent pariter(1317) and "Super ittius specula" (1326) of (Pope) John XXII, alchemy became an intensive cult of extraordinary magnitude in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, because it appealed particularly to the lust of money, the love of life, and the corresponding fear of death. For the philosopher's stone, otherwise known as "the quintessence" or "grand magistery" was not only supposed to transmute the baser metals into gold, make precious stones and a universal solvent, but also conferred perfect health and length of days. It was described by all who claimed to have seen it as of a reddish luster. Raymond Lully (1232-1315) called it a carbuncle; Paracelsus likened it to a ruby; Berigard de Pisa, to a wild poppy with the smell of heated sea-salt; van Helmont, to saffron with the luster of glass. The choral symphony in praise of its capacity for maintaining health resembled the testimonials of "Vin Mariani" and other nostrums of our time. (1, page 286)
While alchemists used elements of chemistry, the art was essentially based on mythology and magic. This was why the Church opposed the art, thus punishing those accused of practicing alchemy, including those who admitted to searching for the pagan philosopher's stone, as these were the antithesis of Biblical beliefs.

Grillot de Givry said:
Through the whole of the Middle Ages and down to about the end of the seventeenth century -- even later in Germany, Spain, and Italy -- sorcerers were vilified, persecuted, and hunted down.  It was thought that the worst of punishments were reserved for them in eternity, and the tale ran that the Devil was often to be seen seizing a witch when her promised period of grace had run out, and carrying her off to the place in Hell she had undoubtedly earned." (4, page 195
If you had asthma during this period, a time when there were no true remedies for your disease, would it be worth risking eternal damnation to search for it, or would it be better to deal with it as best you can while worshiping the Bible under the hope of eternal comfort in Heaven?

  1. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "Introduciton to the history of medicine," 1922, London, W.B. Saunders Company
  2. "Dr. Anderson's, or the famous Scot's Pills,"
  3. Bradford, Thomas Lindsley, writer, Robert Ray Roth, editor, “Quiz questions on the history of medicine from the lectures of Thomas Lindley Bradford M.D.,” 1898, Philadelphia, Hohn Joseph McVey
  4. deGivry, Grillot, "Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy," translated by J. Courtenay Locke, 1931, 1971, New York, Dover Publications, Inc
  5. Swinburne, Clymer, "Alchemy and the Alchemists," volume 3, 1907, PA, The Philosophical Publishing Co.
  6. Anonymous, "The Book of Acquarius: Alchemy and the Sorcerers Stone,"
  7. Regardie, Israel, edited by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, "The Philosopher's Stone: Spiritual Alchemy, Psychology, and Ritual Magic," 2013, MN, Llewellyn Publications
RT Cave on Twitter
Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, October 22, 2015

1940s: Stories from National Jewish Health

The 1940s saw a significant drop in the number of tuberculosis victims.  There must have been a fear that both National Jewish Hospital and National Home for Jewish Children would be forced to close.  However, the idea of "parentectomy" gave birth to a new clientele: asthmatic children.

What follows are three true stories sent to me from these patients.  Keep in mind names will be changed to protect the identity of the patients, although they did submit these stories and would probably love that I'm sharing them here.

National Home for Jewish Children in Denver:
National Home for Asthmatic Children:

From a patient from Huntington Beach, CA (1943-1944)

When I was 12.5 I was sent to Denver for my asthma by the Social Services of Beth Israel hospital in New York.  It happened to be in 1943, in July or August.  It was either called the national Home for Jewish Children in Denver, or the Jewish National home for Asthmatic Children in Denver.  I remember it was a large facility opposite Lake Junior high School which I attended when school started.

I came from New York with another girl named Ellie.  My name was Nina.  I was very lonesome and homesick, but I made friends and was aught up in the daily schedule of making my bed, eating in a large dining room, giving my clothes to be washed  (I think the number they gave me for the laundry was 22.)  I have used that lucky number ever since when I go to Las Vegas!

I remember Sunday School, which I had never gone to before.  Since I played piano, I found a piano teacher close by to go to for lessons.  I remember going down town with a lot of kids to see a movie.  I also remember seeing the Brown Palace hotel from a distance.  I remember trudging through high snow banks to Lake Junior high across the street.

Some of my friends were...  I believe Mr. Cohen was the Superintendent at the time.

I was there when VE Day was declared and everyone was happy.  That was the summer of 1944.  I left the next month in July to go back home

I have fond memories of the Home even though I was very homesick.  Though the years, I have been in touch with some of the kids I met there, and they are very special to me.

National Jewish Hospital:

From a wife of a patient from Tarpon Springs, FL (1943-4):   From a wife whose husband was a resident (1945-47) but is too ornery to share sentimental memories!

By the time I met and married my husband, Tim, he was an active, successful, fun-loving man with little evidence of illness.  It took months of dating before I even realized he used an inhaler.  He eventually explained what asthma was and how it had impacted his early years.  he told me how his time (nearly two years) at the National Jewish Hospital altered his life immeasurably.

He said at that Home he learned how to be "normal" and participate fully in life.  It was there that he became an outstanding athlete.  This was a gift that enhanced his life from high school, where he was a star basketball player, through adulthood, which has included years of organized softball, basketball, touch football, and vigorous racquetball along with years of coaching kid's sports.

Although he never really shared many memories of being sickly, my mother-in-law related to me the anguish of having a child so ill she sometimes thought he would never grow up.  She talked about a neighbor's asthmatic child who had died and the impact that had upon her -- the enduring sadness and fear.  She said she was told that the only chance her son had for living a normal and relatively healthy life was to send him to Denver.  She said it was a very difficult decision to make.

Living in the Bronx, New York, they were working people who couldn't afford to move, therefore sending their nine-year-old to the National Jewish Hospital was their only hope for his future.

The thought of sending her child so far away tormented her.  She said that in order to prepare her -- and Tim -- for this ordeal, they visited a psychiatrist several times who focused on the ensuing separation, (Tim has no recollection at all of seeing a psychiatrist or therapist. I surmise that he was so young, that these visits never registered as therapy sessions.)

Tim recalls leaving his mother, father and little brother and boarding a train for a very long ride to Denver.  (And returning two years later to discover a baby sister, born while he was away!)

He recalls arriving at the hospital and at some point being asked to relinquish his inhaler.  He remembers being overwhelmed by the number of inhalers in this particular room -- shelves, filled with hundreds of inhalers in all shapes, colors, and sizes.

Tim has mentioned fondly a room with a piano, the school he attended, and the wonderful times he had there, better than any other times in his life up until then!  He talks of how he learned to deal with his illness, how he was encouraged to do everything, how he was taught to handle emotions and to take care of himself in nearly every situation he would face.

As a rule, Irving speaks very little of his asthma or of his time in Denver.  He prefers to function as a healthy, ordinary man who had an ordinary childhood.

I personally thank the people at National Jewish who made it possible for me to have a healthy, active, loving, supportive husband who was the absolute best father any children could have!

From a patient from Ft. Collins, CO. (1949-51):  Remembering Mr. G., the many friends and fond memories of my time at the National Home for Jewish Children in Denver.  Hello to all:  (She lists names here).  I once had the nickname, Mousey, in those days.  I remember sneaking out at nights to Bears Stadium, swimming at Washington Park, Elitch's, and of course, Sloan's Lake and Lake Jr. High.

From a patient from Ft. Collins, CO (1941-1945):  Some o fmy memories.  I remember vividly the huge amounts of food available, having just arrived from Germany (no mat, no milk there -- mostly cabbage.)  I gained 20 or 30 pounds in the first month!

I was among the first to receive a phrenic crush with pneumoperiteum (note: phrenic crush is where a nerve supplying the diaphragm is cut off.  Pneumoperiteum is gas in the abdominal cavity.  I am not sure the connection here to asthma, although there were some questionable procedures performed to treat asthma).

I fondly remember Dr. Japha, also Dr. Rosenbloom, and Dr. Kaufman, Medical Director.

First I was in the big B'nai B'rith Building, later the Guggenheim Building, and finally, as the sort of caretaker, in the Nurses' Building on the corner of Colorado Blvd. And 14th Ave.

I remember other young patients. (She names three).

  1. "Our Memories," National Jewish Medical and Research Center Patient and Resident Reunion," July 30-August 1, 1999, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, Colorado, Memories is a packet put together for former patients who visited the institution for the reunion.  Note:  I would be more than happy to send a copy of this little booklet to anyone who requests one.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

1920s and 30s: Memories from National Jewish

 B'nai B'rith Building.  This was the east part of the campus on the opposite
side of Colorado Boulevard as the 7-Goodman Building that I was in.  This
building was for the most severe asthmatic kids during the 1930s.  By the
1980s when I was a patient, this building stood empty.  It appears,
however, that it is no longer empty.  I'm surprised it still stands. And, a
part of me is happy it still stands.
Between 1899 and 1999 there were thousands of children with a chronic breathing disease, mainly tuberculosis and asthma, who benefited from a prolonged stay at the Jewish Hospital in Denver.  In 1999 they were all invited back for a reunion. I was among them. However, due to my place in life, was unable to attend. 

As part of the reunion we were all asked to tell our stories and mail them in. I did not do this, but many others did. They were since compiled into a little booklet that I was able to get my hands on.

I would like here to share some of these stories.  Even though these stories were submitted for the public, I will not share any names here.  My only goal is to give you an idea of what it was like to live in a sanatorium or asthma institution for several months, or years, away from your family and friends. 

Fannie E. Lorber Breaking Ground at the Denver Sheltering Home for Jewish Children
1920s:  Denver Sheltering Home for Jewish Children

I have a story from a lady who's family members suffered from tuberculosis, and she and her three siblings were staying at the shelter because her family couldn't take care of her for a time.  Her father paid $40 a month "for the keep of us four children in our family."  Her recollection was taking dancing lessons.  She adds:  "In sharing these notes I can say 'Thanks' for the shelter and the care I was given while my mother laid in a bed in the hospital with tuberculosis."  I would imagine the hospital she's referring to was National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives.  

Mending clothes was one of the routine chores preformed by the girls.
1930s:  National home for Jewish Children

It was just a simple name change, although the home was the same as the one mentioned during the 1920s.  One guy talked of he and his group of friends having boxing matches "because we had gloves our dad gave us.  He writes how some of the guys "hitch hiked -- got a ride on a cement truck," and one of the kids fell off and was run over and killed.  He remembered running through the tunnels under the hospital -- "especially to escape from Mr. Cohen!  Or hiding in the engine room or the locker room.  And various of us getting beaten up in the locker room by the Boss.'

1930s:  National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives

An unidentified woman reads a story to a group of children in
the nursery at the National Home for Jewish Children at Denver. 

 On back of photograph: ''Story hour in the nursery National
Home for Jewish Children at Denver 1931 (2)
(Resident August 1934-January 1936)  At the time of my admission to National Jewish I had been living in Colorado Springs.  My family had moved from Ohio because of my father's health.  He was tubercular and eventually was a patient at National Jewish also.

At a very early age I had typhoid fever,which left me in a weakened condition from which I never fully recovered.  As I grew older, I failed to recover satisfactorily.  Because my father was tubercular, our family doctor thought it best that i be admitted to National Jewish.

A friend of a friend arranged to have me driven to Denver.  I arrived and was admitted to National Jewish on the 23rd of August 1934.  I was 12 years old.  I was assigned to the Heinemen building for a short time and then transferred to the Hofheimer Preventorium.  I was discharged in late January 1936.  

Dance Recital (2)
I remember the names of many of my fellow patients.  During the school year we went to one of the other buildings on the grounds for our classes.  Our teacher was Miss Mayme Smith.  She taught eight grades in one classroom.  She was taskmaster and a strict disciplinarian.  However, she was always fair. 

the doctors I recall are Drs Black and Cohen.  the nurses I remember are Miss Gresharn, Mrs. Sharam, Miss Elsie and Miss Nickey.  Miss Nickey was the night nurse.  

In addition to attending class, we went on many field trips.  Mostly we walked to the playground at City Park.  Once we walked to Cheesman park where we waded in the pool and I believe we had picnic supper there.  We also went to Elitch Gardens and rode all the rides and to the Schoenberg Farm where we spent the day roaming around the area and having a picnic lunch  At Christmas time the ladies of the Eastern Star took us around to see some of the houses that were very well decorated and lit up.

A group of children sit on an outside deck at the National Home for 
Jewish Children.Each child has a plate of food and an unidentified woman serves them.
 Most of the children are unidentified, however, Bertha Katzson, Doris
Greenstein and Reuben Levine are part of the group. The children
 are in the care of the National Home for Jewish Children
at Denver in Denver, Colorado. (2)
We had students from Denver university visit one afternoon each week.  We called them Club Ladies, one for the boys arranged a trip for a few of the older boys to attend a football game at DU Stadium.  

We used to get our hair cut at regular intervals.  A stool was set up in the nurses' station upstairs, we all lined up and had our hair cut.  All the boys looked the same and all the girls looked alike when the barber was through.  We each climbed on the stool in our turn and zip zip and you were through.  We left our dime for the barber and went our way.

As I recall, we were given some candy on Thursday and Sunday nights.  In the evening we used the dining room as a study hall.  On Sunday nights, while studying, we listened to Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, and Fred Allen's radio programs.  At some time a few of us discovered where the candy was kept.  We used to raid it once in a while.

(Resident 1936-1940) "50 Years Ago, They Gave me Back My Life."  Looking at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, the observers sees a campus composed of both time-honored and modernistic buildings uniquely set off from the busy intersection of Colorado Blvd. and Colfax Avenue.  In 1936, however, National Jewish was a very different place.  Ruth lived at National Jewish for four years during her struggle with tuberculosis between 1936-1940.

As Ruth looks back on her stay, she reflects, "They gave me back my life."  Ruth continued to tell us more about the Center as it was 50 years ago.  "The campus was divided into two parts by the Colorado Blvd.  I lived on the east side of the campus in the B'nai B'rith Building, and on the west side of Colorado Blvd. was the research building, the Pisko building for ambulatory patients, and a few other buildings.  The B'nai B'rith Building was for very ill patients.  After three-and-a-half years, when my tuberculosis was at last brought under control, I was able to move to the west side of the campus into the Pisko building.  In this new setting there was an air of triumph and a sense of camaraderie for we were able to dress and walk to the communal dining room and share meals together.  Also, we could take part in the activities and entertainment wisely planned for our benefit."

Ruth came to the National Jewish Hospital from Arkansas in 1936 after struggling for six years with tuberculosis while living in an Arkansas sanatorium.  she described the mood she prepared for her trip to Denver.  "My father explained to me that I was so ill, the doctors were not sure I would survive the trip to Denver and perhaps I should just stay in Arkansas."

However, Rush is indeed a fighter, and in her heart she felt that the doctors in Denver could help her.  She was prepared to take the risk.  She traveled by ambulance to the train, by train to Denver, and again by ambulance to National Jewish.  The trip required a total of 36 hours.

After being released from National Jewish in 1940, Ruth decided to make Denver her home.  She married soon after her release.  Her battle with tuberculosis had lasted ten long years, and had robbed her of her twenties, yet added a new dimension of perseverance, patience, and compassion to her life.  With the help of the wonderful staff at National Jewish, in particular, Dr. Gugenheim, she was victorious.  Since the, her health has remained stable, and her life has been fulfilling and productive.

In July of 1986, on the 50th anniversary of her entry into National Jewish, Ruth came back to the Center.  It was indeed a  very emotional visit as she toured a different, yet familiar, campus.  today the National Jewish Medical and Research Center is world renowned for only for work with tuberculosis, but for research in respiratory and immune system disease, model patient care programs, and excellent educational training for doctors and patients nationwide.

Rush acknowledged the fifty year anniversary of her admittance into National Jewish my making a gift to the Center in the form of a National Jewish Gift Annuity.  This very special gift from the heart, given with deep thanksgiving, will help National Jewish to progress and grow during the next 50 years.
Compliments of National Jewish Health Facebook Page. Opened in 1899. 

  1. "Our Memories," National Jewish Medical and Research Center Patient and Resident Reunion," July 30-August 1, 1999, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, Colorado, Memories is a packet put together for former patients who visited the institution for the reunion.  
  2. "Jewish Story at the National Home for Jewish Children at Denver," Penrose Presents, University of Denver, accessed 11/8/12

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

1940's: Dr. M. Murray Peshkin, Parentectomy, and the rise of the asthma institution

Figure 1 -- NJH patients receiving sunlight exposure treatment
Thanks to better care, improved diets and good hygiene, the number of tuberculosis patients declined significantly during the 1930s. National Jewish Hospital at Denver and National Home for Jewish Children in Denver continued to function mainly because their doors were open to people with other diseases besides just tuberculosis, particularly asthmatics having trouble managing their asthma at home.   (1, page 115)

In the 1940's, the number of tuberculosis patients was generally higher than those with other diseases, like asthma.  However, the number of asthma patients at the institution was on the rise.  And, for the most part, the goal for people with chronic lung diseases was to seek the cool, dry climate of Colorado for improved breathing.  So, both asthmatics and TB patients received open air treatment (see figure 1).

Figure 2 --Children playing on swings at the National Home
 for Jewish Children, 1936 (6)
Likewise, patients who got better were provided the "added bonus of rehabilitation, social and education programs.  The education programs were intended to equip patients, who often came from lives of poverty, to function more effectively, in the world outside of the hospital."  (5)

Now, before I get into the rise of asthma patients at these hospitals, you have to understand the common thinking about asthma in this era. First of all, asthma was a much rarer disease at this time, so it didn't get even close to the type of limelight that a deadly disease like tuberculosis got.

During most of the 19th century the two most prominent theories about asthma were that it was a neurotic disorder that resulted in airway constriction and shortness of breath.  This theory continued to be prevalent in the minds of many physicians, although it sort of took a back seat to other theories, such as the allergic theory. In fact, some researchers were so excited about the new allergic theory that they believed this would lead to a vaccine for asthma.

However, the idea that asthma was nervous was reinvigorated beginning with German and Austrian physicians (like Dr. Alexander) in the 1920's. These physicians described wheezing and asthma as a suppressed cry for the mother. So, the treatment for it, along with controlling asthma triggers, was psychotherapy. Of course it was often noted that most asthmatics were not avoiding triggers nor receiving the therapy they needed to obtain ideal control.

As these physicians migrated to the United States this information migrated with them. Do doctors here, including Dr. Murray Peshkin, medical director for the National Home for Jewish Children, must have been aware of it. This must have inspired him.

So, during the 1930's the number of tuberculosis patients were on the decline and the number of asthma patients were on the rise. Still, at this time, there weren't a lot of asthma patients. This changed after Dr. Peshkin observed a trend among asthmatic children at the hospital. He postulated a theory based on his observations that would cause a spike in the number of asthmatic admissions to National Jewish and all the other asthma hospitals around the nation.

What he observed was there were about 10 percent of asthmatic children who never got better at home, even when he personally visited their homes to make sure they were perfectly clean and antiseptic with no trace of any known allergens.  (2) He observed that as soon as being admitted to his hospital many of these children became immediately better. He observed that 99 percent of the children treated this way had 'substantial or complete relief' of symptoms, according to his own reports. (3, page 145)

He concluded the reason for this was removal from allergens and stress at home. He therefore proposed a strategy that involved abducting (with parental permission of course) these children from their homes and admitting them to asthma hospitals. A slang term for this developed: Parentectomy.

Parentectomy became a popular strategy when physicians observed severe asthma in children despite their best efforts. The children would often stay at these hospitals from 1-2 years. And they weren't like typical hospitals either: they were more like institutions. Sure there were nurses and doctors, but there were also teachers and, most certainly, there was entertainment. We can learn what it was like to live at one of these institutions by reading their stories. (4, page 170)

  1. Minton, Gregg, "Breathing Space,"
  2. Wamboldt, Fredrick S. "Asthma Theory and Practice: It's Not Too Simple," April 2, 2008,
  3. Jackson, Mark, "Asthma: A Biography,"
  4. Travis, George, "Chronic Illness in Children," 1976, California, Stanford University Press
  5. "Clinical History: The Early Years,",, accessed 11/7/12
  6. Photo from Penrose Library,, accessed 11/8/12

Monday, October 19, 2015

1921: The Children's Ward at National Jewish Hospital

Figure 1 -- Hofheimer Children's Building
National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives got off to a great start. In fact, it got off to such an impressive start that after WWI it was noted a need for expansion.  In 1920 a new ward was completed and designed specifically for children. It was called Hofheimer Children's Building (figure 1).

What this showed was the stunning success of the sanatorium for patients with consumption.  During the 1840s George Bodington opened the first sanatorium in Sutton, England.  After publishing his research his opinions were rejected, and his research abandoned.

In 1854 Herman Brehmer picked up his research and opened a sanatorium in 1859 at Goerbersdorf in Prussian Siselia.  It was his research that proved the value of open air treatment and good hygiene in the treatment of consumption.

In 1884 Edward L. Trudeau tested Brehmer's methods in America.  A small amount of money, a small amount of land, and two small buildings were donated.  The Trudeau sanatorium was a success, and provided an example for many other future sanatoriums opened in the United States, including National Jewish in Denver.

Figure 2 -- Rear view of the Hofheimer Children's Building
In 1899 National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives opened, and the specific goal was to provide help only for those who were unable to pay.  Some of the over 300 patients who submitted applications in the first three years were rejected due to the fact they had family members willing to pay for their medical support.

By 1921 it was considered one of the finest sanatoriums in the United States.  Considering that Consumption was among the leading causes of death at this time, of the 3,613 patients seen at National Jewish since 1900, 50 percent returned to their previous occupations once discharged.

Figure 3 -- Combination diet kitchen, drug station, and chart room
The hospital started out as one building and grew to eleven, and the sanatorium had access to a seventy acre farm to furnish a fresh supply of milk and eggs.  A new Children's building was compliments of Mrs. Nathan Hofheimer of New York.

Previously the care of children was done in various locations in the other buildings, and this new building will therefore create a great advancement for the children.  It will provide better access to preventative treatment of consumptive children whose families have no means of affording treatment for them.  The new building has two stories, a basement, and can hold up to 35 children.

Figure 4 -- The girls dormitory.  Notice the arrangement of chairs
and beds to absorb sun rays.
A detailed description of the building is as follows:
On the.first floor is a reception room, a dining and play room for the children, a diet kitchen, dormitories for sixteen beds, with adjacent dressing rooms, bath rooms, toilets, linen room and pantry, and a large porch, fourteen by twenty-five feet, in which it is contemplated to apply heliotherapy. On the second floor are dormitories for sixteen beds, with adjacent dressing rooms and bath rooms, two private rooms with a private bath
The goal of the new facility is to...
Figure 5 -- A list of states and how many patients came from those states.
"establish a preventorium for children who would otherwise live in an environment that would render them susceptible to tuberculosis. They may be sent here for a variable period to be built up by the natural agents of fresh air, good food, and adequate rest, and made strong enough to hold their own in the social complex of city life. In addition it is intended to care for a certain number of orthopedic  cases in this building. There are ample facilities in the Grabfelder Medical Building of the hospital to offer every diagnostic and therapeutic agent that a case may call for. In this building, which is adjacent to the children's building, there are complete facilities for all laboratory, roentgenological, and fluoroscopic examinations, in addition to special dental and nose and throat clinics."

The daily routine of the children seems to be quite similar to when I attended the hospital in 1985 (although when I attended this building sat across from the main complex empty).  Without the ability to interview the caregivers nor the patients, it's nearly impossible to do justice, although the following is a gallant attempt.

1.  Each child is examined fully, upon admittance, and thereafter at regular periods to determine its progress.

2.  The medical care of the children is under the immediate supervision of specialists in orthopedics, pediatrics, and tuberculosis. 

3.  The diets and routine life of the children are under the supervision of a competent person.

4.  The following is the basis of the routine life of the children: 
  • 6:45-7:30, daily shower and dress;
  • 7:30-8:00, breakfast; 
  • 8:00-8:45, housework; 
  • 8:45-12:00, school; 
  • 12:00-1:00, dinner; 
  • 1:00-3:00, rest hour; 
  • 3:00-5:00, recreation and occupational therapy; 
  • 5:00-5:30, supper; 
  • 5:30-7:15, recreation or study period.
5.  The children attend school three hours every morning and their work is conducted by an approved public school teacher. The program corresponds as nearly as possible to that used in the city grammar schools and it is planned to accomplish one semester of work in a year. 

6.  The department of occupational therapy provides tent specialist. The children are trained to be nimble with their fingers, quick with their eyes, and original in ideas. 

Figure 6: Plan of the 2nd floor of the children's building. On the backside
of the building are the dormatories, women on left, men on right.
7.  The following crafts are chiefly used: 
  • basketry, 
  • leather tooling,
  • painting, 
  • toy making, 
  • elementary book binding, 
  • weaving 
  • and block printing
Perhaps occupational therapy was as essential to the tuberculosis child in 1920 as the asthmatics admitted to the hospital in 1985.  These children grow up with diseases, often have trouble breathing, and are often forced to forgo some of the normal activities of healthy children.  For this reason they generally lag behind in basic skills, and this can erode self confidence.  
Figure 7 -- Layout of 1st floor. Dormitories on back side. There are
plenty of windows so allow in plenty of sunlight.

The following further explains this:
"Children living in an institution are necessarily barred from many of the interests of the normal child, and the tendency is to develop habits of idleness and carelessness. Occupational work to a large extent corrects this evil and is frequently responsible for the development of a latent talent. In many cases these crafts lead directly into vocational training along some original line. Whether or not these crafts are used as a means of livelihood in the future, they at least furnish a possible avocation, and in some measure care for those hours which otherwise may easily undo the years of preventive care. Part of the function of a preventorium is to furnish content of mind through active hands, and thus lay the foundations for a useful, busy life no matter what the physical handicap may be. An appreciation of beauty, and the ability to transform that appreciation into some concrete form is a never failing source of interest and pleasure to a child, and he rapidly becomes skillful enough to make objects of real value."
I think the following sums this service up well:
"In this manner, with the generous aid of our numerous friends, we are the agency that takes little children from the slums and tenement districts where frequently we'find them pale, anemic, undernourished, and undersized, sometimes with a. dulled mentality, and gives them the things that are theirs by birthright, fresh air, wholesome food, adequate rest, and wholesome ideas. In a remarkably short time the pale cheeks take on a rosy color, the dull listless eyes become bright, the child with a backward air begins to laugh heartily, and the undersized child takes on weight. Thus in about a year’s time the child is ready to return to the life of the city, but now he is prepared to survive in the struggle."
So the staff at the facility does more than just get the children healthier.  They also work hard to teach them about their disease and provide them with the skills and confidence tofunction in the real world.

Prior to discharge the homes the patient will be returning to are inspected to assure they will provide for the safe and therapeutic environment the patients are instructed in.  The homes must provide cleanliness, good hygiene, and fresh air.

Plus, I would imagine, the family, particularly the mom and dad, must be educated about the disease and the importance of good hygiene.  They must also provide the necessary care and encouragement, and be able to notice the signs of worsening health.

Based on my own personal experience, I think among the most important therapies provided by such a facility isn't so much educating the child, but the family.  Although this, I think, is the most challenging part

According to, the Hofheimer Preventorium was open until 1941, and in its 23 year history cared for 730 children.  
  1. Prisko, S., Secretary for NJH Hospital for Consumptives, "The New Children's Building of the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives," The Modern Hospital, Volume XVI, No. 5, January to June, 1921, pages 404-407.  All the material in this post that is not my own comes from this reference.  It was a great article, and provides a great description of life at NJH.