Today’s Tranquil Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
So not far from where I live in Chicago, along the Eisenhower Expressway, there’s a huge piece of modern architecture called Rush University Medical Center. I think it’s pretty cool-looking myself – have a gander:
Anyway, this is the modern incarnation of what began as Rush Medical College in 1837. Rush was named after Dr. Benjamin Rush, the only physician to sign the Declaration of Independence, and a hugely-influential physician in the late 18th and early 19th century. In fact, Rush is called “the father of American psychiatry”. So imagine my surprise when I found myself reading about him and finding out what sort of crazy ideas he had. Here, let me share an excerpt from Gracefully Insane:
Dr. Benjamin Rush’s magnum opus, Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind [I must find this book! – DeSpair], held that madness was an arterial disease, “a great morbid excitement or inflammation of the brains.” An “unrestrained appetite,” he wrote, “caused the blood vessels to be overcharged with blood.” Thus, he advocated low diet, purges and emetics for vomiting, and hot and cold showers to slow down the overheated metabolism.
And bleeding. Rush was a world-class bleeder, once boasting that he drained 470 ounces from one patient during forty-seven bleedings. Rush was also a tool-bench tinkerer who contributed two mechanical inventions to psychiatry. One was the “gyrator,” a rotating board to which patients suffering form “torpid madness” were strapped. Spinning at terrific speeds with the patient’s head away from the center, the gyrator pushed blood into the brain to stimulate activity. Rush also sold a “coercion chair,” called “the Tranquilizer,” which supposedly lowered a patient’s pulse and blood pressure by holding him or her immobile in the sitting position.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, himself:
“What to do?… I know!! I’ll drain his blood!”
And Speaking of Crackpots…
When I think of crackpot doctors, one name always come to mind: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame! His 1877 masterpiece, Plain Facts for Young and Old, is chock full of … er… questionable… advice.
In this excerpt, he offers typically sound reasoning on how to avoid menstrual problems:
Perhaps nothing tends more directly to the production of menstrual derangements – as well as uterine diseases of every sort – than fashionable modes of dress. We have not space here to give to the subject the attention it deserves; it will be found treated of in works devoted to the subject of dress exclusively. Some of the most glaring evils are,–
(1) Unequal distribution of clothing. The trunk, especially the abdomen and pelvis, is covered with numerous layers of clothing, an extra amount being caused by the overlapping of the upper and lower garments. Very frequently, the amount of clothing upon these, the most vital parts, is excessive. At the same time, the limbs are sometimes almost in a state of nudity. A single cotton garment, or at most one of thin flannel, is the only protection afforded to the limbs beneath the skirts, which often serve no better purpose than to collect cold air and retain it in contact with the limbs. A thin stocking is the only protection for the ankles, and a thin shoe is the only additional covering afforded the feet. Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that a woman catches cold if she only steps out-of-doors on a chilly or damp day.
(2) Another glaring fault is in the manner of suspending the skirts. Instead of being fastened at a waist or suspended so as to give them support from the shoulders, they are hung upon the hips, being drawn tight at the waist to secure support. By this means, the organs of the pelvis are pressed down out of place. The uterus becomes congested, and painful menstrual derangements ensue.
(3) Tight lacing, or compressing the waist with a corset, is a barbarous practice which produces the same results as the one last mentioned. Reform in all of these particulars in an imperative necessity for every woman who desires to secure or retain sexual health.