Friday, January 22, 2016

1699: Asthma still considered a symptom

While Jan Baptiste van Helmont was probably the first physician to refer to asthma as nervous, Thomas Willis was usually credited with forming the nervous theory of asthma. Regardless, most physicians considered asthma as nothing more than a symptom of some other malady.

Of this, Wolff Freudenthal, in his 1917 article in the New York Medical Journal titled "Bronchial Asthma," said most physicians of the 17th century referred to asthma in the following manner:
Neque cnim asthma, anhelatio ipsa morbus est, sed morbi symptoma.
When run through Google Translate we get:
Nor could it asthma, panting is a disease itself, but of the disease symptoms. Nor could it asthma, panting is a disease itself, but of the disease symptoms.
Of this, Freudenthal said:
These words—repeated so very often in our times—gave evidence that the physicians in those days considered asthma only as a symptom, nothing being heard of a nervous or spasmodic asthma. 
So this is yet more evidence of how slowly knowledge of asthma was accepted by the medical profession.

  1. Freudenthal, Wolff, "Bronchial Asthma," New York Medical Journal: A Weekly Review of Medicine, edited by Edward Swift Dunster, James Bradbridge Hunter, Frank Pierce Foster, Charles Euchariste de Medicis Sajous, Gregory Stragnell, Henry J. Klaunberg, Félix Martí-Ibáñez, volume CV, January-June, 1917 (Saturday, January 6, 1917), New York, A.R. Elliot Publishing, Co., pages 1-5
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