Burning of two homosexuals at the stake outside Z?rich, 1482 (Spiezer Schilling).

Source: Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons



Classical period: Europe


The earliest Western documents (in the form of literary works, art objects, and mythographic materials) concerning same-gender relationships are derived from ancient Greece. With regard to male homosexuality such documents depict a world in which relationships with women and relationships with youths were the essential foundation of a normal man’s love life. Same-gender relationships were a social institution variously constructed over time and from one city to another. The formal practice, an erotic yet often restrained relationship between a free adult male and a free adolescent, was valued for its pedagogic benefits and as a means of population control, though occasionally blamed for causing disorder. Plato praised its benefits in his early writings but in his late works proposed its prohibition. Aristotle, in the Politics, dismissed Plato’s ideas about abolishing homosexuality; he explains that barbarians like the Celts accorded it a special honor, while the Cretans used it to regulate the population.


Little is known of female homosexuality in antiquity. Sappho, born on the island of Lesbos, was included by later Greeks in the canonical list of nine lyric poets. The adjectives deriving from her name and place of birth (Sapphic and Lesbian) came to be applied to female homosexuality beginning in the 19th century. Sappho’s poetry centers on passion and love for various personages and both genders. The narrators of many of her poems speak of infatuations and love (sometimes requited, sometimes not) for various females, but descriptions of physical acts between women are few and subject to debate.


Sappho reading to her companions on an Attic vase of c. 435 BCE.

Source: Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons



In Ancient Rome the young male body remained a focus, but relationships were between older free men and slaves or freed youths who took the receptive role. The Hellenophile emperor Hadrian is renowned for his relationship with Antinous, but the Christian emperor Theodosius I decreed a law on 6 August 390, condemning passive males to be burned at the stake. Justinian, towards the end of his reign, expanded the proscription to the active partner as well (in 558), warning that such conduct can lead to the destruction of cities through the “wrath of God“. Notwithstanding these regulations, taxes on brothels of boys available for homosexual relationships continued to be collected until the end of the reign of Anastasius I in 518.




During the Renaissance, wealthy cities in northern Italy – Florence and Venice in particular – were renowned for their widespread practice of same-gender love, engaged in by a considerable part of the male population and constructed along the classical pattern of Greece and Rome. But even as many of the male population were engaging in same-gender relationships, the authorities, under the aegis of the Officers of the Night court, were prosecuting, fining, and imprisoning a good portion of that population. From the second half of the 13th century, death was the punishment for male homosexuality in most of Europe. The relationships of socially prominent figures, such as King James I and the Duke of Buckingham, served to highlight the issue, including in anonymously authored street pamphlets: “The world is chang’d I know not how, For men Kiss Men, not Women now;.Of J. the First and Buckingham: He, true it is, his Wives Embraces fled, To slabber his lov’d Ganimede“ (Mundus Foppensis, or The Fop Display’d, 1691).


18th and 19th Centuries


Love Letters Between a Certain Late Nobleman and the Famous Mr. Wilson was published in 1723 in England and was presumed by some modern scholars to be a novel. The 1749 edition of John Cleland’s popular novel Fanny Hill includes a homosexual scene, but this was removed in its 1750 edition. Also in 1749, the earliest extended and serious defense of homosexuality in English, Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified, written by Thomas Cannon, was published, but was suppressed almost immediately. It includes the passage, “Unnatural Desire is a Contradiction in Terms; downright Nonsense. Desire is an amatory Impulse of the inmost human Parts.“ Around 1785 Jeremy Bentham wrote another defense, but this was not published until 1978. Executions for certain activities continued in the Netherlands until 1803, and in England until 1835. Between 1864 and 1880 Karl Heinrich Ulrichs published a series of twelve tracts, which he collectively titled Research on the Riddle of Man-Manly Love. In 1867, he became the first self-proclaimed gay person to speak out publicly in defense of gayness when he pleaded at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a resolution urging the repeal of discriminatory laws. A book by Havelock Ellis, published in 1896, challenged theories that homosexuality was abnormal, as well as stereotypes, and insisted on the ubiquity of homosexuality and its association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Although medical texts like these (written partly in Latin to obscure the graphic details) were not widely read by the general public, they did lead to the rise of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, which campaigned from 1897 to 1933 against discriminatory laws in Germany, as well as a much more informal, unpublicized movement among British intellectuals and writers, led by such figures as Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds. Beginning in 1894 with Homogenic Love, Socialist activist and poet Edward Carpenter wrote a string of pro-gay articles and pamphlets, and “came out“ in 1916 in his book My Days and Dreams. In 1900, Elisar von Kupffer published an anthology of homosexual literature from antiquity to his own time, Lieblingminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur.



Credit: Garrondo, National Institute on Aging; Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons


Credit: National Institutes of Health nlm.nih.gov/medline; Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons



The history of dementia is probably as old as mankind itself. In recent years, considerable advances have been made in our understanding of the epidemiology, the pathogenesis and the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and related disorders, and the nosology of these disorders is under scrutiny. Furthermore, we are witnessing the emergence of therapeutic agents specifically designed to enhance memory and cognition in AD patients. Despite the limited efficacy of the agents currently available, their introduction has shed an entirely new light on the field. We therefore feel that this is a good time to look at the past to understand the present and perhaps gain insight into the future. Until the end of the 19th century, dementia was a much broader clinical concept. It included mental illness and any type of psychosocial incapacity, including conditions that could be reversed. Dementia at this time simply referred to anyone who had lost the ability to reason, and was applied equally to psychosis of mental illness, “organic“ diseases like syphilis that destroy the brain, and to the dementia associated with old age, which was attributed to “hardening of the arteries.“


Dementia has been referred to in medical texts since antiquity. One of the earliest known accounts was written by the 7th century BCE Greek physician and mathematician Pythagoras, who divided the human lifespan into six distinct phases, which were 0-6 (infancy), 7-21 (adolescence), 22-49 (young adulthood), 50-62 (middle age), 63-79 (old age), and 80- (advanced age). The last two he described as the “senium“, a period of mental and physical decay, and of the final phase being where “the scene of mortal existence closes after a great length of time that very fortunately, few of the human species arrive at, where the mind is reduced to the imbecility of the first epoch of infancy“. In 550 BCE, the Greek Athenian statesman and poet Solon argued that the terms of a man’s will might be invalidated if he exhibited loss of judgement due to advanced age. Chinese medical texts made allusions to the condition as well, and the characters for “dementia“ translate literally to “foolish old person“.


Aristotle and Plato from Ancient Greece spoke of the mental decay of advanced age, but apparently simply viewed it as an inevitable process that affected all old men, and which nothing could prevent. The latter stated that the elderly were unsuited for any position of responsibility because, “There is not much acumen of the mind that once carried them in their youth, those characteristics one would call judgement, imagination, power of reasoning, and memory. They see them gradually blunted by deterioration and can hardly fulfill their function.“ For comparison, the Roman statesman Cicero held a view much more in line with modern-day medical wisdom that loss of mental function was not inevitable in the elderly and “affected only those old men who were weak-willed.“ He spoke of how those who remained mentally active and eager to learn new things could stave off dementia. However, Cicero’s views on aging, although progressive, were largely ignored in a world that would be dominated by Aristotle’s medical writings for centuries. Subsequent physicians during the time of Roman Empire such as Galen and Celsus simply repeated the beliefs of Aristotle while adding few new contributions to medical knowledge.


Byzantine physicians sometimes wrote of dementia, and it is recorded that at least seven emperors whose lifespans exceeded the age of 70 displayed signs of cognitive decline. In Constantinople, there existed special hospitals to house those diagnosed with dementia or insanity, but these naturally did not apply to the emperors who were above the law and whose health conditions could not be publicly acknowledged. Otherwise, little is recorded about senile dementia in Western medical texts for nearly 1700 years. One of the few references to it was the 13th-century friar Roger Bacon, who viewed old age as divine punishment for original sin. Although he repeated existing Aristotelian beliefs that dementia was inevitable after a long enough lifespan, he did make the extremely progressive assertion that the brain was the center of memory and thought rather than the heart. Poets, playwrights, and other writers however made frequent allusions to the loss of mental function in old age. Shakespeare notably mentions it in some of his plays including Hamlet and King Lear.


Dementia in the elderly was called senile dementia or senility, and viewed as a normal and somewhat inevitable aspect of growing old, rather than as being caused by any specific diseases. At the same time, in 1907, a specific organic dementing process of early onset, called Alzheimer’s disease, had been described. This was associated with particular microscopic changes in the brain, but was seen as a rare disease of middle age because the first patient diagnosed with it was a 50-year-old woman. During the 19th century, doctors generally came to believe that dementia in the elderly was the result of cerebral atherosclerosis, although opinions fluctuated between the idea that it was due to blockage of the major arteries supplying the brain or small strokes within the vessels of the cerebral cortex. This viewpoint remained conventional medical wisdom through the first half of the 20th century, but by the 1960s was increasingly challenged as the link between neurodegenerative diseases and age-related cognitive decline was established. By the 1970s, the medical community maintained that vascular dementia was rarer than previously thought and Alzheimer’s disease caused the vast majority of mental impairments in old age. More recently however, it is believed that dementia is often a mixture of both conditions.


Much like other diseases associated with aging, dementia was comparatively rare before the 20th century, due to the fact that it is most common in people over 80, and such lifespans were uncommon in preindustrial times. Conversely, syphilitic dementia was widespread in the developed world until largely being eradicated by the use of penicillin after WWII. With significant increases in life expectancy following WWII, the number of people in developed countries over 65 started rapidly climbing. While elderly persons constituted an average of 3-5% of the population prior to 1945, by 2010 it was common in many countries to have 10-14% of people over 65 and in Germany and Japan, this figure exceeded 20%. Public awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease was greatly increased in 1994 when former US president Ronald Reagan announced that he had been diagnoses with the condition. By the period of 1913-20, schizophrenia had been well-defined in a way similar to today, and also the term dementia praecox had been used to suggest the development of senile-type dementia at a younger age. Eventually the two terms fused, so that until 1952 physicians used the terms dementia praecox (precocious dementia) and schizophrenia interchangeably. The term precocious dementia for a mental illness suggested that a type of mental illness like schizophrenia (including paranoia and decreased cognitive capacity) could be expected to arrive normally in all persons with greater age (see paraphrenia). After about 1920, the beginning use of dementia for what we now understand as schizophrenia and senile dementia helped limit the word’s meaning to “permanent, irreversible mental deterioration“. This began the change to the more recognizable use of the term today.


In 1976, neurologist Robert Katzmann suggested a link between senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Katzmann suggested that much of the senile dementia occurring (by definition) after the age of 65, was pathologically identical with Alzheimer’s disease occurring before age 65 and therefore should not be treated differently. He noted that the fact that “senile dementia“ was not considered a disease, but rather part of aging, was keeping millions of aged patients experiencing what otherwise was identical with Alzheimer’s disease from being diagnosed as having a disease process, rather than simply considered as aging normally. Katzmann thus suggested that Alzheimer’s disease, if taken to occur over age 65, is actually common, not rare, and was the 4th or 5th leading cause of death, even though rarely reported on death certificates in 1976. This suggestion opened the view that dementia is never normal, and must always be the result of a particular disease process, and is not part of the normal healthy aging process, per se. The ensuing debate led for a time to the proposed disease diagnosis of “senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type“ (SDAT) in persons over the age of 65, with “Alzheimer’s disease“ diagnosed in persons younger than 65 who had the same pathology. Eventually, however, it was agreed that the age limit was artificial, and that Alzheimer’s disease was the appropriate term for persons with the particular brain pathology seen in this disorder, regardless of the age of the person with the diagnosis. A helpful finding was that although the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increased with age (from 5-10% of 75-year-olds to as many as 40-50% of 90-year-olds), there was no age at which all persons developed it, so it was not an inevitable consequence of aging, no matter how great an age a person attained. Evidence of this is shown by numerous documented supercentenarians (people living to 110+) that experienced no serious cognitive impairment. There is some evidence that dementia is most likely to develop between the ages of 80-84 and individuals who pass that point without being affected have a lower chance of developing it. Women account for a larger percentage of dementia cases than men, although this can be attributed to their longer overall lifespan and greater odds of attaining an age where the condition is likely to occur. Also, after 1952, mental illnesses like schizophrenia were removed from the category of organic brain syndromes, and thus (by definition) removed from possible causes of “dementing illnesses“ (dementias). At the same, however, the traditional cause of senile dementia – “hardening of the arteries“ – now returned as a set of dementias of vascular cause (small strokes). These were now termed multi-infarct dementias or vascular dementias.


In the 21st century, a number of other types of dementia have been differentiated from Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementias (these two being the most common types). This differentiation is on the basis of pathological examination of brain tissues, symptomatology, and by different patterns of brain metabolic activity in nuclear medical imaging tests such as SPECT and PETscans of the brain. The various forms of dementia have differing prognoses (expected outcome of illness), and also differing sets of epidemologic risk factors. The causal etiology of many of them, including Alzheimer’s disease, remains unclear, although many theories exist such as accumulation of protein plaques as part of normal aging, inflammation (either from bacterial pathogens or exposure to toxic chemicals), inadequate blood sugar, and traumatic brain injury. Sources: nih.gov; Wikipedia


Carl Tanzler (1877-1952): Who Knew Bacteriologists Were So Interesting!

Tanzler in 1940



Carl Tanzler, or sometimes called, Count Carl von Cosel (February 8, 1877 July 3, 1952), was a German-born bacteriologist at the United States Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida. He developed an obsession for a young Cuban-American tuberculosis patient, Elena “Helen“ Milagro de Hoyos (July 31, 1909 – October 25, 1931), that carried on well after the disease had caused her death. In 1933, almost two years after her death, Tanzler removed Hoyos’s body from its tomb, and lived with the corpse at his home for seven years until its discovery by Hoyos’s relatives and authorities in 1940.


Tanzler went by many names; he was listed as Georg Karl Tanzler on his German marriage certificate. He was listed as Carl Tanzler von Cosel on his United States citizenship papers, and he was listed as Carl Tanzler on his Florida death certificate. Some of his hospital records were signed Count Carl Tanzler von Cosel. He was born as Karl Tanzler or Georg Karl Tanzler on February 8, 1877 in Dresden, Germany. Around 1920 he married Doris Anna Shafer (1889-1977) and he was listed as “Georg Karl T?nzler“ on the marriage certificate. Together they had two children: Ayesha Tanzler (1922-1998), and Crystal Tanzler (1924-1934), who died of diphtheria. Tanzler grew up in Germany. The following “Editorial Note“ accompanying the autobiographical account “The Trial Bay Organ: A Product of Wit and Ingenuity“ by “Carl von Cosel“ in the Rosicrucian Digest of March and April 1939, gives details about his stay in Australia before and during World War I and his return to Germany after the war:


Many years ago, Carl von Cosel travelled from India to Australia with the intention of proceeding to the South Seas Islands. He paused in Australia to collect equipment and suitable boats, and to become acquainted with prevailing weather and sea conditions. However, he became interested in engineering and electrical work there, bought property, boats, an organ, an island in the Pacific?so that he was still in Australia at the end of ten years. He had just begun to build a trans-ocean flyer when the war broke out and the British military authorities placed him in a concentration camp for ‘safe-keeping’ along with many officers India and China who were prisoners of war. Later he was removed to Trial Bay to a castle-like prison on the cliffs, and there the work in this narrative was accomplished. At the end of the war no prisoner was permitted to return to his former residence, but all were shipped to the prisoner’s exchange in Holland. When Carl von Cosel was released he set out to find his mother from whom he had not heard since the beginning of the war. Finding her safe, he remained with her for three years, witnessing the chaos that followed in the wake of the war. Finally, she suggested that her son return to his sister in the United States.


Tanzler’s account of Trial Bay Gaol, his secret building of a sailing boat, etc., is confirmed by Nyanatiloka Thera, who mentions that he planned to escape from the Gaol with “Count Carl von Cosel“ in a sailing boat, and provides other information about the interment of Germans in Australia during WWI. Tanzler emigrated to the United States in 1926, sailing from Rotterdam on February 6, 1926 to Havana, Cuba. From Cuba he settled in Zephyrhills, Florida, to where his sister had already emigrated, and was later joined by his wife and two daughters. Leaving his family behind in Zephyrhills in 1927, he took a job as a radiologic technologist at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida under the name Carl von Cosel.


During his childhood in Germany, and later while traveling briefly in Genoa, Italy, Tanzler claimed to have been visited by visions of a dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, who revealed the face of his true love, an exotic dark-haired woman, to him.


On April 22, 1930, while working at the Marine Hospital in Key West, Tanzler met Maria Elena “Helen“ Milagro de Hoyos (1909-1931), a local Cuban-American woman who had been brought to the hospital by her mother for an examination. Tanzler immediately recognized her as the beautiful dark-haired woman that had been revealed to him in his earlier “visions.“ By all accounts, Hoyos was viewed as a local beauty in Key West. Elena was the daughter of local cigar maker Francisco “Pancho“ Hoyos (1883-1934) and Aurora Milagro (1881-1940). She had two sisters, Florinda “Nana“ Milagro Hoyos (1906-1944), who married Mario Medina (c.1905-1944) and also succumbed to tuberculosis; and Celia Milagro Hoyos (1913-?). Medina, Nana’s husband, was electrocuted trying to rescue a coworker who hit a powerline with his crane at a construction site. On February 18, 1926, Hoyos married Luis Mesa (1908-?), the son of Caridad and Isaac Mesa. Luis left Hoyos shortly after Hoyos miscarried the couple’s child, and moved to Miami. Hoyos was legally married to Mesa at the time of her death. Hoyos was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis, a typically fatal disease at the time, that eventually claimed the lives of almost all of her entire immediate family. Tanzler, with his self-professed medical knowledge, attempted to treat and cure Hoyos with a variety of medicines, as well as x-ray and electrical equipment, that were brought to the Hoyoses’ home. Tanzler showered Hoyos with gifts of jewelry and clothing, and allegedly professed his love to her, but no evidence has surfaced to show that any of his affection was reciprocated by Hoyos.


The corpse of Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos (1910-1931) encased in wax and plaster circa 1940. Source: Wikipedia Commons



Despite Tanzler’s best efforts, Hoyos died of terminal tuberculosis at her parents’ home in Key West on October 25, 1931.Tanzler paid for her funeral, and with the permission of her family he then commissioned the construction of an above ground mausoleum in the Key West Cemetery, which he visited almost every night. One evening in April, 1933, Tanzler crept through the cemetery where Hoyos was buried and removed her body from the mausoleum, carting it through the cemetery after dark on a toy wagon, and transporting it to his home. He reportedly said that Elena’s spirit would come to him when he would sit by her grave and serenade her corpse with a favorite Spanish song. He also said that she would often tell him to take her from the grave. Tanzler attached the corpse’s bones together with wire and coat hangers, and fitted the face with glass eyes. As the skin of the corpse decomposed, Tanzler replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of Paris. As the hair fell out of the decomposing scalp, Tanzler fashioned a wig from Hoyos’s hair that had been collected by her mother and given to Tanzler not long after her burial in 1931. Tanzler filled the corpse’s abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep the original form, dressed Hoyos’s remains in stockings, jewelry, and gloves, and kept the body in his bed. Tanzler also used copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents, to mask the odor and forestall the effects of the corpse’s decomposition.


In October, 1940, Elena’s sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with the disinterred body of her sister, and confronted Tanzler at his home, where Hoyos’s body was eventually discovered. Florinda notified the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested and detained. Tanzler was psychiatrically examined, and found mentally competent to stand trial on the charge of “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.“ After a preliminary hearing on October 9, 1940 at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West, Tanzler was held to answer on the charge, but the case was eventually dropped and he was released, as the statute of limitations for the crime had expired. Shortly after the corpse’s discovery by authorities, Hoyos’s body was examined by physicians and pathologists, and put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,800 people. Hoyos’s body was eventually returned to the Key West Cemetery where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave, in a secret location, to prevent further tampering. The facts underlying the case and the preliminary hearing drew much interest from the media at the time (most notably, from the Key West Citizen and Miami Herald), and created a sensation among the public, both regionally and nationwide. The public mood was generally sympathetic to Tanzler, whom many viewed as an eccentric “romantic“.


Though not reported contemporaneously, research (most notably by authors Harrison and Swicegood) has revealed evidence of Tanzler’s necrophilia with Hoyos’s corpse. Two physicians (Dr. DePoo and Dr. Foraker) who attended the 1940 autopsy of Hoyos’s remains recalled in 1972 that a paper tube had been inserted in the vaginal area of the corpse that allowed for intercourse. Others contend that since no evidence of necrophilia was presented at the 1940 preliminary hearing, and because the physicians’ “proof“ surfaced in 1972, over 30 years after the case had been dismissed, the necrophilia allegation is questionable. While no existing contemporary photographs of the autopsy or photographs taken at the public display show a tube, the necrophilia claim was repeated by the HBO Autopsy program in 2005.


In 1944, Tanzler moved to Pasco County, Florida close to Zephyrhills, Florida, where he wrote an autobiography that appeared in the Pulp publication, Fantastic Adventures, in 1947. His home was near his wife Doris, who apparently helped to support Tanzler in his later years. Tanzler received United States citizenship in 1950 in Tampa. Separated from his obsession, Tanzler used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Hoyos, and lived with it until his death on July 3, 1952. His body was discovered on the floor of his home three weeks after his death. He died under the name “Carl Tanzler“. It has been recounted that Tanzler was found in the arms of the Hoyos effigy upon discovery of his corpse, but his obituary reported that he died on the floor behind one of his organs. The obituary recounted: “a metal cylinder on a shelf above a table, in it wrapped in silken cloth and a robe was a waxen image“. It has been written (most notably by Swicegood) that Tanzler had the bodies switched (or that Hoyos’s remains were secretly returned to him), and that he died with the real body of Elena.


Simon Baruch MD (1840 – 1921)


Public baths and public comfort stations by the Mayor’s committee of New York City (1897). Sources: Flickr‘s The Commons, no known copyright restrictions exist. Wikipedia Commons



Simon Baruch MD was a Jewish physician, scholar, and the foremost advocate of the urban public bathhouse to benefit public health in the United States. Simon Baruch, the son of Bernard and Theresa (Green), was born July 29, 1840 in Schwersenz, Poland (formerly Posen). He attended the Royal Gymnasium in Posen-West Prussia. In 1855, when Simon was15-years-old, his family emigrated to South Carolina to live with the Manus Baum family. Baruch worked for Manus Baum as a bookkeeper before beginning to study medicine in 1859. Baruch attended lectures at the Medical College of the State of South Carolina, and enrolled at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), (now Virginia Commonwealth University) in Richmond, Virginia, where he received a medical degree in 1862.


Baruch began his career as a surgeon in the Confederate Army; reportedly entering the service “without even having lanced a boil.“ He initially accepted a commission as Assistant Surgeon of the 3rd South Carolina Battalion on April 4, 1864, and in August of that same year, he transferred to the 13th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, in the position of Surgeon. During the Civil War, Baruch gained considerable surgical experience. After the Confederate surrender at Gettysburg in July 1863, he stayed on to treat the wounded for six weeks. Afterwards, he was imprisoned at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, and he returned to his unit in December 1863. Following a period of ill health, he returned to the 13th Mississippi Regiment 6-months later, and he served until the end of the war.


After the war, Baruch remained in the South during the Reconstruction Era, where he practiced medicine and authored a widely read pamphlet on “Bayonet Wounds.“ In 1865, Baruch went to New York City where he worked for one year in a post-graduate position as an attending physician to the Medical Polyclinic of the North-Eastern Dispensary in the Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan district of Manhattan – a bastion of poor and working-class people. There, Baruch tended to patients who were suffering from communicable infection, most of whom lacked access to clean bath water, fresh air, and sunshine. A year later, Dr. Baruch returned to Camden, South Carolina, in 1867.


For 16-years Baruch practiced medicine in South Carolina. He also advocated for the smallpox vaccination for the children of the state, and he helped to reactivate the South Carolina State Medical Association, serving as president. He held a position on the faculty of the South Carolina State Medical College, and he was chairman of the Board of Health, later renamed South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. However, Baruch grew increasingly dissatisfied with the indiscriminate use of unproven medical remedies. He studied the healing philosophies of Austrian physician Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1852), and in particular, the success of a therapeutic spa in the Silesian Foothills. The remedies where largely predicated upon frequent bathing and irrigation of the gastrointestinal tract; an alternative form of medicine called hydrotherapy. Patients recuperated in a restful, calm environment, ate a prudent diet, eliminated alcohol and tobacco, and engaged in physical activity. Later, Baruch also credited Wilhelm Winternitz for his pioneering work in hydrotherpy. Baruch would go on to introduce medicinal spring therapies, known as balneology, and hydrotherapy to the United States of America.


In 1881, Baruch took up residence in New York City with his wife Belle, and their four sons, Hartwig (“Harty“) Nathaniel (1868-1953), Bernard Mannes (1870-1965), Herman Benjamin (1872-1953), and Sailing Wolfe (1874-1963). He became known as an active public health advocate and medical writer. He also gained professional credibility for diagnosing the first case of perforating appendicitis successfully operated on, and in the widely publicized “child cruelty“ case involving the musical prodigy Josef Hofmann, Baruch was the consulting physician. After examining Hofmann, Baruch recommended the boy musician rest and resume the lifestyle of a child. In 1892, Baruch became a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. As a physician and scholar, Baruch’s enduring interest in hydrotherpy guided many of his professional and civic pursuits. He published the standard texts, “The Uses of Water in Modern Medicine“ (1892), “Therapeutic reflections: a plea for physiological remedies“ (1893), and “The Principles and Practice of Hydrotherapy“(1898).


From 1903 to 1913, he taught a course in hydro-therapeutics, or methods of using water to treat various diseases, at New York Post Graduate Medical School and Hospital of the University of the State of New York. He resigned when hydrotherapy was made an elective subject of study. In 1910, Baruch wrote “Lessons of half a century in medicine.“ In 1920, he authored “Epitome of hydrotherapy for physicians, architects and nurses.“ Notably, Baruch’s interest in hydrotherapy led to his role as the country’s foremost municipal bath advocate. Ever since his trip in the 1880s to study the public bath system of Germany, Baruch was a tireless advocate for free public baths in New York City, during a period of immigration in American history when newcomers flooded cities. After he studied hydrotherapy, and understood the utility of fresh water to the prevention of infection. Baruch worked tirelessly to educate public officials and the medical community about the importance of water to public health. For many years, the general public and civic leaders were skeptical about the debilitating effects of poor sanitation on physical health; pessimistic Mayor Hugh J. Grant (1852-1910) declared, “The people won’t bathe.“ Despite decades of opposition, Baruch managed to convince three successive Mayors of the utility of water, and in particular, the importance of a public bath system to the population health of the urban working class and poor. He wrote numerous journal and newspaper articles on the medical utility of water, including first article published in America on public baths for the Philadelphia Medical Times and Register on August 24, 1889. He reported on the structure, functioning, and health benefits of a public bath systems to the New York’s Committee on Hygiene, in his role as Chairman. Baruch also delivered addresses on the topic to medical and scientific societies. Moreover, Baruch was medical editor at the New York Sun, from 1912 to 1918, and he covered all the major health concerns of the period, and wrote articles on a variety of topics, from the common cold to malarial fevers.



Free Public Baths 538 East 11th Street; Wikipedia Commons



Asser Levy Recreation Center; Wikipedia Commons



Although Baruch met with continual resistance, by 1895, he successfully persuaded the State Legislature to pass a law to obligate cities exceeding a population of 50,000 to establish and maintain free bathhouse facilities, and an order from the local Board of Alderman to construct a public bath in the City of New York. In 1897, 9 Centre Market Place People’s Baths, located between Center and Mulberry Streets, served as a prototype public bathhouse. Financed by private contributions from the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP), and built on land owned by the City Mission and the Tract Society, the facility provided more than 100,000 people a year with a bath, soap, and a towel for five cents. In 1901, Baruch and his colleagues, Deputy Commissioner of Health of the City of New York Fowler and Dr. Van Santvoord, presided over the opening of the first free public bathhouse, Rivington Street municipal bath, located at 326 Rivington, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The bathhouse facility featured indoor and outdoor bathing pools, 45 showers and five soaking tubs for men, and 22 showers for women. Other public baths of the period, credited to the advocacy of Baruch, include the Clarkson Street Bathhouse, located at 83 Carmine Street in Greenwich Village, which provided showers, tubs, and a gymnasium complex on two floors, as well as an open-air classroom on the rooftop for children in poor health. The facility has since become part of the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center. In 1904, several more free public baths opened in Manhattan, including the Milbank Memorial Bath, located on 325-327 East 38th Street, a gift to the City of New York by a Borden (company) heiress, which had the capacity to hold 3,000 people. That same year, the City opened West 60th Street Bathhouse, now Gertrude Elderle Recreation Center, providing 49 showers for men and 20 for women. In 1905, The Public Baths, designed by prominent architect Arnold W. Brunner, opened at 538 East 11th Street, between Avenues A and B, in the Alphabet City area of the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan; the building is also on the List of New York City Designated Landmarks in Manhattan below 14th Street. Asser Levy Public Baths opened in 1906, at the corner of Asser Levy Place and East 23rd Street, in the Kips Bay area. Also designed by architect Arnold W. Brunner and Martin Aiken, the facility has since become part of the Asser Levy Recreation Center, and the building is a designated historic landmark.


In 1912, Dr. Baruch was appointed the founding president of the American Association for Promoting Hygiene and Public Baths, a position he held until his death. Baruch said he had “done more to save life and prevent the spread of disease in my work for public baths than in all my work as a physician.“


In 1867, Simon Baruch married Isabelle (“Belle“) Wolfe (1850-1921), daughter of cotton farmer Sailing Wolfe of Winnsboro, South Carolina. Their son Bernard M. Baruch went on to a successful career on Wall Street and a financial advisor to U.S. Presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Harry S. Truman; his substantial fortune afforded him the opportunity to endow university chairs, medical school facilities, and public buildings in his father’s name. Herman B. Baruch followed his father’s footsteps to become a physician, and then a Diplomat, and president of the Simon Baruch Foundation. Hartwig Baruch was an actor, and Sailing Baruch was a banker and stockbroker.


Simon Baruch is the namesake of civil monuments, educational entities, and academic departments in New York City, and throughout the country, many of which were established by his son Bernard M. Baruch, including Simon Baruch Houses, a public housing complex in Manhattan, as well as buildings, halls, and academic chairs at Columbia University, Clemson University, New York University College of Medicine, and the Medical College of Virginia/ VCU. New York City Department of Education’s Middle School 104 is named Simon Baruch Middle School, along with an adjacent Simon Baruch Playground and Garden, under the auspices of the New York City Department of Parks. In 1933, the Simon Baruch Research Institute of Baleneology at Saratoga Springs Spa, Saratoga Springs, New York was established. In 1940, Bernard M. Baruch endowed in honor of Simon Baruch, the Simon Baruch Auditorium building on the campus of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University as well as the university’s Egyptian Building, designed by architect Thomas Somerville Stewart, now a National Historic Landmark. Biannually, the Richmond, Virginia chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy grants the Mrs. Simon Baruch University Award to a work of scholarly research on Southern history.


Francis Schlatter (1856-1896), Healer with Copper Rod


Francis Schlatter Credit: Unknown – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division; Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons


Francis Schlatter (1856-1896) was an Alsatian cobbler who, because of miraculous cures attributed to him, became known as the Healer. Schlatter was born in the village of Ebersheim, Bas-Rhin, near Selestat, in Alsace on April 29, 1856. In 1884 he emigrated to the United States, where he worked at his trade in various cities, arriving in Denver, Colorado, in 1892. There, a few months later, he experienced a vision at his cobbler’s bench in which he heard the voice of the Father commanding him to sell his business, give the money to the poor, and devote his life to healing the sick. He then undertook a two-year, 3,000-mile walking pilgrimage around the American West which took him across eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and then to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he was arrested and jailed for vagrancy. In early 1894 he escaped and headed west, walking across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and into southern California, where he began his first efforts at healing with the Indians of the San Jacinto Valley. After two months, he again took up his pilgrimage and traveled east across the Mohave Desert, living on nothing but flour and water.


In July 1895 he emerged as a Christ-like healer in the Rio Grande villages south of Albuquerque. There, while treating hundreds of sick, suffering, and disabled people who flocked to Albuquerque’s Old Town, he became famous. Crowds gathered about him daily, hoping to be cured of their diseases simply by clasping his hands. The following month he returned to Denver, but did not resume his healings until mid-September. During the next few weeks, his ministry drew tens of thousands of pilgrims to a small home in North Denver. Schlatter is said to have refused all rewards for his services. His manner of living was of the simplest, and he taught no new doctrine. He said only that he obeyed a power which he called Father, and from this power he received his healing virtue.


On the night of November 13, 1895, he suddenly disappeared, leaving behind him a note in which he said that his mission was ended. Then, in 1897 news came out of Mexico that the healer’s bones and possessions had been found on a mountainside in the Sierra Madre. At the same time, a New Mexico woman named Ada Morley published a book called The Life of the Harp in the Hand of the Harper which told of the healer’s three-month retreat on her ranch in Datil, New Mexico, after his disappearance from Denver. The book, which carried the title the healer gave it, also contained a first-person description of his two-year pilgrimage, which he believed held the same significance for mankind as Christ’s forty days in the wilderness. On departing the Morley ranch, Schlatter told Morley that God intended to establish New Jerusalem in the Datil Mountains, and the healer promised to return at that time. In the wake of the healer’s death, several men claiming to be Francis Schlatter made headlines around the country in 1909, 1916, and 1922.


In August Strindberg?s autobiographical novel Inferno, Francis Schlatter is mentioned as a doppelganger of another man Strindberg met in Paris in 1896, the year after Schlatter disappeared. He was afraid of Schlatter. The “double“ turned out to be Paul Herrmann, a German-American painter.


The Healer’s Copper Rod


In 1906 Edgar Lee Hewett, who became a noted archaeologist and museum director, was conducting research near Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, when his Mexican guide pointed out an unmarked grave. Ten years before, the guide said, he had come across the body of a dead man following a blizzard. From the guide’s description, Hewett surmised that the dead man the guide had come across was Francis Schlatter, whom Hewett had met and whose healing sessions he observed in 1895. Hewett asked if any of the man’s possessions had survived. The guide led him to the home of the jefe of Casas Grandes, and there Hewett saw Schlatter’s Bible, saddle, and copper rod – which had become a mysterious hallmark of the healer from the time of his disappearance. Years later, in 1922, Hewett returned to Mexico and examined the copper rod again. By now, Edgar Lee Hewett had become the director of the School of American Research (now the School for Advanced Research) and the Museum of New Mexico Hewett showed interest in the rod and made a donation to the village of Casas Grandes to hire a teacher. Back in Santa Fe, a few weeks later, he received a heavy, burlap-wrapped package, and inside was Francis Schlatter’s copper rod. He placed the rod in the collections of the two institutions he directed, which shared space in the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, N.M. Today the rod lies in the collections of the New Mexico History Museum in the Palace of the Governors. Almost immediately after reports came out of Mexico announcing the healer’s death, skepticism arose. Ada Morley, who had visited at length with Schlatter during his three-month stay at her ranch in New Mexico in early 1896, had her doubts. “The men who found the skeleton declared to have been [Schlatter’s],“ she said, “say it was resting as though it had never been disturbed. I know the coyotes would never have left it, if it had ever lain there bearing flesh.“ The New York Times expressed doubts as well. “It does not appear that the human remains were actually identified as Schlatter’s,“ the newspaper stated on June 19, 1897, “or that any identification was possible.“ However, the presence of the healer’s possessions at the scene, especially his copper rod, convinced most people otherwise. Over the next twenty-five years, several men arose claiming to be Francis Schlatter. One, a Presbyterian minister named Charles McLean, died in Hastings, Nebraska, in 1909, creating a controversy between skeptics and believers. Two others, August Schrader and Jacob Kunze, who formed a healing team that operated between 1908 and 1917, were arrested and jailed in 1916 for mail fraud. A final so-called imposter died in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1922.


During the second half of the twentieth century, a renewed interest in Schlatter brought with it speculation about the claim of the healer who had died in St. Louis. Most recently, The Vanishing Messiah: The Life and Resurrections of Francis Schlatter (2016), argues that the healer conspired to stage his death in the mountains of Mexico and returned to the United States to continue healing in the eastern and southern parts of the country until his death in St. Louis in 1922. The Vanishing Messiah claim rests in part on the discovery of a largely forgotten autobiography in the Library of Congress entitled Modern Miracles of Healing: A True Account of the Life, Works and Wanderings of Francis Schlatter, the Healer, attributed to “Francis Schlatter, The Alsacian,“ and published in 1903.


Veterans Day – Honoring Those Who Served: The Race to Bring Penicillin to the Troops in WWII


The following was excerpted from the FDA Blog and authored by John P. Swann, Ph.D., an FDA Historian



Chemical structure of Penicillin G. The sulfur and nitrogen of the five-membered thiazolidine ring are shown in yellow and blue respectively. The image shows that the thiazolidine ring and fused four-membered beta-lactam are not in the same plane. Credit: Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons



On Veterans Day this year (11 November 2016), we remembered that nearly 75 years ago dozens of American academic, commercial, nonprofit, and governmental institutions – including FDA – joined together in a race to provide penicillin, a promising but complex and unstable medicine to troops fighting in World War II. Knowing that infection is the major killer in wars, not battle injuries, the goal was to help turn a British discovery into a crucial wartime medical contribution and what would become an indispensable therapeutic agent long after that conflict ended.


Many people are familiar with the story of Alexander Fleming’s 1928 discovery of a Penicillium mold that had contaminated – and surprisingly destroyed – his cultures of pathogenic organisms. Though Fleming and several others in the next decade studied the mold filtrate, known as penicillin, it was Howard Florey and his colleagues at Oxford who uncovered the drug’s chemotherapeutic potential. Their work began with studies in mice in May 1940 and transitioned to a handful of clinical cases nine months later. However, the drug was difficult to purify. Also, it presented an immense challenge to produce in sufficient quantities for study, and with Britain under siege firms there were too involved in other aspects of the war effort to offer much assistance. So Florey and a colleague came to the U. S. in the summer of 1941 for help.



FDA Voice: A meeting of NRRL staff in the 1940s (courtesy of the American Institute

of the History of Pharmacy).



Among the first sites they visited was the Department of Agriculture’s Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL) in Illinois, which had extensive experience in fermentation work, and from there they contacted several drug and chemical companies to drum up support. Americans quickly combined forces to tackle the challenge. The federal Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), the federal entity that organized and facilitated investigations to support the war effort, arranged to act as a clearing-house for the latest research on chemical and other studies of penicillin, exchanging data with dozens of organizations in the U.S. and Britain. NRRL developed several production modifications that increased the yield of penicillin by 100 fold.



FDA Voice: An FDA analyst in the 1950s carries out part of the procedure

in testing penicillin for moisture content.



FDA’s first experience with the potential wonder drug was around September 1942, when the NRRL Director approached FDA about testing the antibacterial effectiveness of a small quantity of penicillin. A year later, enough of the drug had been produced to confirm in 200 patients what the early results at Oxford had suggested, and penicillin was ready to enter the war. First, however, OSRD asked that FDA certify every lot produced by the half-dozen or so manufacturers, a task the agency also performed for insulin under statutory authority that began in 1941. Six FDA technicians certified samples for potency, absence of fever-producing contaminants, toxicity, sterility, and optimum moisture, which can affect the drug’s stability. So scarce was penicillin that companies always reconditioned the occasional rejected lot rather than destroying it.



FDA Voice: The strain of Penicillium notatum that Fleming discovered at St. Mary’s Hospital in London.



By the end of the war, some of the participating firms had increased purity of the drug from the Oxford group’s one percent to about 85%. Penicillin was not only more potent, it was also more abundant, its production having increased by a factor of 500 from 1943 to 1945. In fact, by 1945 the output of penicillin, formerly under severe restriction outside of military and scientific use, was now available for most civilian needs as well. In a few years the cost of producing penicillin had decreased so much that the glass used to store ampules of the drug cost more than the drug itself. FDA’s wartime work was codified in the Penicillin Amendment of 1945, which mandated FDA’s certification of penicillin and, through subsequent laws, most other antibiotics – a responsibility that continued for nearly four decades, when the need for government testing no longer existed based on industry’s record of production. But it all started with an international effort to provide a lifesaving drug to the armed forces, bringing together all sorts of scientific and medical institutions, including FDA. Like so many others participating in this collaboration on a scale unseen up to that point, FDA played a small but critical role to support our troops at this time of global crisis.


This entry was posted in Drugs, Other Topics and tagged Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL), Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), penicillin, Veterans Day, World War II by FDA Voice.


The Contact Lens


Artist’s impression of Leonardo da Vinci’s method for neutralizing the refractive power of the cornea. Credit: Tbuffie (Uploads) – self-made, GFDL, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15226528



Leonardo da Vinci is frequently credited with introducing the idea of the contact lens (CL) in his 1508 Codex of the eye, Manual D, where he described a method of directly altering corneal power by either submerging the head in a bowl of water or wearing a water-filled glass hemisphere over the eye. Neither idea was practically implementable in da Vinci’s time. He did not suggest his idea be used for correcting vision, as he was more interested in learning about the mechanisms of accommodation of the eye.


Descartes proposed another idea in 1636: a glass tube filled with liquid placed in direct contact with the cornea. The protruding end was to be composed of clear glass, shaped to correct vision; however, the idea was impracticable since it rendered blinking impossible. In 1801, Thomas Young made a basic pair of CLs based on Descartes’ model. He used wax to affix water-filled lenses to his eyes, which neutralized its refractive power. He then corrected for it with another pair of lenses. However, like da Vinci’s, Young’s device was not intended to correct refraction errors. Sir John Herschel, in a footnote of the 1845 edition of the Encyclopedia Metropolitana, posed two ideas for the visual correction: the first “a spherical capsule of glass filled with animal jelly“, and “a mold of the cornea“ that could be impressed on “some sort of transparent medium“. Though Herschel reportedly never tested these ideas, they were both later advanced by several independent inventors such as Hungarian Dallos with Istv?n Komaromy (1929), who perfected a method of making molds from living eyes. This enabled the manufacture of lenses that, for the first time, conformed to the actual shape of the eye.


Early contact lenses were made of ground glass and the glass lens covered the entire eye. Oxygen could not pass through the glass lens, and wearers could not blink. It’s thus no surprise that no one could stand them for more than two hours. The 1930s saw a contact lens composed of plastic mixed with glass. Just ten years later, an all-plastic, glass-free contact lens was created. It was not until 1887 that German glassblower F. E. Muller produced the first eye covering to be seen through and tolerated.



Adolf Fick; Wikipedia Commons



In 1888, German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick constructed and fitted the first successful contact lens. While working in Zurich, he described fabricating a focal scleral contact shells, which rested on the less sensitive rim of tissue around the cornea, and experimentally fitting them: initially on rabbits, then on himself, and lastly on a small group of volunteers. These lenses were made from heavy blown glass and were 18-21 mm in diameter. Fick filled the empty space between cornea/callosity and glass with a dextrose solution. He published his work, “Contactbrille“, in the journal Archiv fur Augenheilkunde in March 1888. Fick’s lens was large, unwieldy, and could only be worn for a couple of hours at a time. August M?ller in Kiel, Germany, corrected his own severe myopia with a more convenient glass-blown scleral contact lens of his own manufacture in 1888. In 1887, Louis J. Girard invented a similar scleral form of contact lens. Glass-blown scleral lenses remained the only form of contact lens until the 1930s when polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA or Perspex/Plexiglas) was developed, allowing plastic scleral lenses to be manufactured for the first time. In 1936, optometrist William Feinbloom introduced plastic lenses, making them lighter and more convenient. These lenses were a combination of glass and plastic. In 1940, German optometrist Heinrich Wohlk produced plastic lenses, based on experiments performed during the 1930s.


In 1949, the first “corneal“ lenses were developed. These were much smaller than the original scleral lenses, as they sat only on the cornea rather than across all of the visible ocular surface, and could be worn up to sixteen hours a day. PMMA corneal lenses became the first CLs to have mass appeal through the 1960s, as lens designs became more sophisticated with improving manufacturing (lathe) technology. Early corneal lenses of the 1950s and ’60s were relatively expensive and fragile, resulting in the development of a market for CLs insurance. Replacement Lens Insurance, Inc. (now known as RLI Corp.) phased out its original flagship product in 1994 after contacts became more affordable and easier to replace. One major disadvantage of PMMA lenses is that they allow no oxygen to get through to the conjunctiva and cornea, causing a number of adverse and potentially serious clinical effects. By the end of the 1970s, then through the ’80s and ’90s, a range of oxygen-permeable but rigid materials were developed to overcome this problem. Chemist Norman Gaylord played a prominent role in the development of these new, oxygen-permeable CLs. Collectively, these polymers are referred to as “rigid gas permeable“ or “RGP“ materials or lenses. Though all the above CL types – sclerals, PMMAs and RGPs -could be correctly referred to as “rigid“ or “hard“, the latter term is now used to the original PMMAs, which are still occasionally fitted and worn. Whereas, “rigid“ is a generic term for all these lens types, thus hard lenses (PMMAs) are a subset of rigid CLs. Occasionally, the term “gas permeable“ is used to describe RGPs, which is somewhat misleading as soft CLs are also gas permeable in that they allow oxygen to get through to the ocular surface.



Otto Wichterle (pictured) and Drahoslav L?m introduced modern soft hydrogel lenses in 1959. Credit: Wikipedia Commons



The principal breakthrough in soft lenses was made by Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav L?m who published their work “Hydrophilic gels for biological use“ in the journal Nature in 1959. In 1965 National Patent Development Corporation (NPDC) bought the American rights to produce the lenses and then sublicensed the rights to Bausch & Lomb which started to manufacture them in the United States. The Czech scientists’ work led to the launch of the first soft (hydrogel) CLs in some countries in the 1960s and the first approval of the Soflens material by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1971. These softs were soon prescribed more often than rigids, due to the immediate and much greater comfort (rigids require a period of adaptation before full comfort, if any, is achieved). Polymers from which soft lenses are manufactured improved over the next 25 years, primarily in terms of increasing oxygen permeability, by varying the ingredients. In 1972, British optometrist Rishi Agarwal was the first to suggest disposable soft CLs.


In a slightly modified molecule, a polar group is added without changing the structure of the silicone hydrogel. This is referred to as the Tanaka monomer because it was invented and patented by Kyoichi Tanaka of Menicon Co. of Japan in 1979. Second-generation silicone hydrogels, such as galyfilcon A (Acuvue Advance, Vistakon) and senofilcon A (Acuvue Oasys, Vistakon), use the Tanaka monomer. Vistakon improved the Tanaka monomer even further and added other molecules, which serve as an internal wetting agent. Comfilcon A (Biofinity, CooperVision) was the first third-generation polymer. Its patent claims that the material uses two siloxy macromers of different sizes that, when used in combination, produce very high oxygen permeability (for a given water content). Enfilcon A (Avaira, CooperVision) is another third-generation material that is naturally wettable; its water content is 46%. Soft contact lenses were introduced in 1971, followed in 1978 by gas permeable lenses, allowing the transfer of oxygen. Just three years later, the FDA approved extended-wear soft lenses, which hit the market in 1986. A few months later, in accordance with the ever-spreading phenomenon of planned obsolescence in the U.S., the industry introduced disposable soft lenses. In 1987, gas permeable lenses became available in next-generation fluorosilicone acrylate materials. This new material increased oxygen penetration and reduced protein buildup. In 1996, one-day disposable soft lenses were introduced. Why go to the expense of daily throw-aways? Disposables reduce the risk of infection, and some people are willing to pay more for that added benefit. Close to 2000, silicone-hydrogel contact lenses were introduced and touted for increased oxygen flow and greater comfort. Silicone-hydrogel works so well that it is used for most of today’s soft contact lenses.


In 1998, an important development was the launch of the first silicone hydrogels onto the market by Ciba Vision in Mexico. These new materials encapsulated the benefits of silicone – which has extremely high oxygen permeability – with the comfort and clinical performance of the conventional hydrogels that had been used for the previous 30 years. These CLs were initially advocated primarily for extended (overnight) wear, although more recently, daily (no overnight) wear silicone hydrogels have been launched.


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 30 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses. The FDA and CDC, important regulatory agencies, continue to monitor the quality of contact lenses sold in America.


Speaking of Halloween: One of History’s First Serial Killers


Poster of Fritz Lang’s 1931 film M; Credit: Wikipedia Commons



A Real Case of Macabre Mentality: Fritz Haarmann (1879-1925)



Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarmann; Alias: Fritz The Butcher of Hanover;

The Vampire of Hanover; The Wolf Man; The Werewolf



“Often, after I had killed, I pleaded to be put away in a military asylum, but not a madhouse. If [Hans] Grans had really loved me he would have been able to save me. Believe me, I’m not ill ? it’s only that I occasionally have funny turns. I want to be beheaded. It’ll only take a moment, then I’ll be at peace.“


One of history’s first serial killers, Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarmann, better known by his nickname of Fritz Haarmann and also referred to as “The Butcher of Hanover“ or “The Vampire of Hanover“, was a German serial killer responsible for at least 24 murders of young males. Born in Hanover on October 25, 1879, during the German Empire, Fritz was the sixth child of a poor couple, Ollie and Johanna. He was motivated by his sickly mother to play with his sisters’ dolls instead of boys’ activities. As a result, Fritz seemed to have a bit of a feminine personality; he also had sadistic tendencies in which he would tie up his sisters and also tap windows during the nighttime to cause rumors of supernatural creatures that roam about in the middle of the night. He also harbored a dislike for his father, whom he would threaten to throw in jail as Ollie supposedly murdered a train driver. Performing terribly in school, Fritz was sent to attend a military academy at Neu Breisach. Though he did well, Fritz was eventually discharged for medical reasons after having a series of seizures. Returning to Hanover, he found employment at a local cigar factory. Sometime in 1898, he was arrested for molesting several children, but was deemed psychologically unfit to stand trial and was sentenced to a mental institution. Six months into his stay, Fritz escaped and sought shelter in Switzerland before returning to Germany at the age of 20. Around 1900, he was able to seduce and marry a woman named Erna Loewert, later impregnating her with their child. Fritz then abandoned Erna in favor of a life in the military. While becoming a soldier, Fritz, much like the serial killer William Burke, led a successful life under the occupation. However, on October of 1901, all of that abruptly ended when he collapsed during an exercise and was diagnosed as having an unspecified mental deficiency. As a result, he was discharged and sent back to live with his family. His father Ollie made at least one attempt at putting Fritz in an asylum, but the local doctors merely deemed him as “morally inferior“. Fritz attempted to open up a small business of his own, but it went bankrupt immediately and was closed down. Sometime after this, he started a series of petty burglaries and con jobs to easily gain money and spent about one-third of the following two decades being incarcerated for such crimes. Because of his frequent arrests, he became well-known with the Hanover police, even becoming one of their informers after his latest release in 1918, just to redirect police attention from himself. Simultaneously, World War 1 began and he was hit hard by the inflicted national poverty. Fritz also started a number of misdemeanor sexual offenses that went unnoticed by authorities mostly because his partners were too ashamed to file reports.


“I never intended to hurt those youngsters, but I knew that if I got going something would happen and that made me cry. I would throw myself on top of those boys and bite through the Adam’s apple, throttling them at the same time.



Some of the many bones of Haarmann’s victims that were recovered from the Leine River. Credit: Wikipedia Commons


Finally, Fritz suddenly snapped and murdered a 17-year-old youth named Friedel Rothe on September 25, 1918. Following from eyewitness accounts provided by Rothe’s friends and the pressure from Rothe’s family, authorities raided Fritz’s residence and found him with a teenage boy in bed, having been seduced by him for about nine months. Fritz was arrested for sexual assault, but the police, for some unknown reason, never searched his house and, as a result, he was cleared of any suspicion of Rothe’s murder. Eventually released, Fritz later met Hans Grans at the Hanover central station, and the two became fast friends and, eventually, lovers. In early 1922, they moved to an apartment, number 27 Cellerstrasse, which was located in the “haunted area“ of Hanover. Fritz then started murdering young men again, this time by luring them in by pretending to be a police officer. Hans became his accomplice after unexpectedly returning home to witness Fritz murder his second victim, 17-year-old Fritz Franke. In the following nine months, twelve men were murdered this way, with their dismembered remains being dumped in the Leine River and their valuables used to provide Fritz and Hans with money. The killings went unnoticed, until in May 1924, when over 500 human bones belonging to Fritz’s victims started washing up downstream in the Leine River. Sheer terror gripped Hanover and citizens dubbed the killer as The Butcher of Hanover.



Haarmann’s Apartment. Credit: Wikipedia Commons



Fritz’s last murdered victim was 17-year-old Erich de Vries; at this time, police had begun an enormous manhunt for the serial killer. Suspicion quickly fell on him due to knowledge of his 1898 molestation crimes and the disappearance of Friedel Rothe years ago. Police silently observed Fritz, and on June 22, they apprehended him after he attempted to lure in a would-be victim, Karl Fromm, from Hanover’s central station; Fromm had spent several days in Fritz’s apartment before, during which he was assaulted by him. Fritz would later confess to his intention of killing Fromm, marking the first time that he was guided by moral principles, although it ironically proved to be his downfall. Police searched Fritz’s home and found the walls sporting bloodstains, with Fritz alleging it to be an unhandy result of the illegal meat-trade business he ran there. However, officers found clothing and belongings of his victims and arrested him on suspicion of the Hanover murders. Fritz quickly confessed to being the perpetrator and claimed that the amount of lives he took ranged from “somewhere between 50 and 70“, though police made it official that the true body count was measured to 24-27 victims. He then aided officers in finding undiscovered parts of his victims and the dump sites at the Leine River. He proved overall to become extremely cooperative in the investigation, save for instances in which he was confronted by families of his victims or conversing about decapitation, to which he would become withdrawn.



Haarmann (middle) with police detectives.

Credit: By Bundesarchiv, Bild; Wikipedia Commons


Fritz’s trial began on December 4, 1924, and was conducted at the Hannover Assizes. As the term “serial killer“ had not been coined yet, there were no words to describe Fritz other than “werewolf“ or “vampire“. Hoping to take Hans with him to execution, he resorted to accusing him of some of the murders, which the court actually came to believe. A notable aspect of the case was the shock that came to the public after the discovery that Fritz was a police informant, and therefore, the police never came to suspect him of the murders even though witnesses pointed him out as being with his last victims. Fritz’s trial lasted for two weeks and required 200 witnesses to explain their accounts. He was found guilty of murdering all but three of the victims tied to him and sentenced to death by guillotine. On April 15, 1925, he was beheaded by guillotine, but not before he said as his last words, “I repent, but I do not fear death.“ The remains of his victims were buried together in a grave at Stockener Cemetery months before his execution, with a large, granite, triptych-style memorial inscribed with the victims’ names and ages being erected on April 1928. Fritz’s head was preserved in a jar by scientists, who used it in their studies to examine the structure of his brain. It was being kept at the Gottingen medical school until 2014, when it was cremated.



Haarmann (seated in front of chalkboard sketch of his apartment), during his trial in 1924.

Credit: Bundesarchiv_Bild; Wikipedia Commons



Hans Grans spent his early years as a petty thief before running away from his home, making his living by selling old clothes. He soon met Fritz Haarmann at Hanover’s central station after offering to prostitute himself in exchange for money. The two soon became friends, and then lovers. From March 1920 to December of the same year, Hans traveled through Germany, committing petty robberies before returning to Hanover and reuniting with Fritz on Christmas, later moving into a new apartment, number 27 Cellerstrasse, with him. On February 12, 1923, he returned home unexpectedly to find Fritz murdering his second victim, 17-year-old Fritz Franke. Condoning the act, he soon became Fritz’s accomplice and live-in partner. Hans even chose two of Fritz’s victims for him, one of them 17-year-old Adolf Hannappel, who was murdered on November 11, 1923. Hans was arrested on July 8, 1924, and initially found guilty to enticement to the murder of Hannappel. Fritz and eyewitnesses verified that Hans picked Hannappel out for the former and as a result, Hans was sentenced to death. However, he was cleared and the sentence was reduced after a letter written by Fritz that declared Hans’s innocence was discovered. Instead, Hans served twelve years in prison and was eventually released. He continued to live in Hanover until his death in 1975, from natural causes.


“I’d make two cuts in the abdomen and put the intestines in a bucket, then soak up the blood and crush the bones until the shoulders broke. Now I could get the heart, lungs and kidneys and chop them up and put them in my bucket. I’d take the flesh off the bones and put it in my waxcloth bag. It would take me five or six trips to take everything and throw it down the toilet or into the river. I always hated doing this, but I couldn’t help it – my passion was so much stronger than the horror of the cutting and chopping.“

In the wake of his killings, Fritz has inspired three films to date. The first, a 1931 German drama-thriller named M, is well-known and has also been inspired by two other serial killers, Peter Kurten and Carl Grossmann. The second, The Tenderness of the Wolves (Die Zartlichkeit der Wolfe), was released on July 1973 and is directly based upon Fritz’s murders. And finally, the most recent is Der Totmacher (The Deathmaker), which was released on 1995 and, like the previous film, is based on Fritz’s murders. Fritz has also been mentioned in several novels, a subject of focus in a song called “Fritz Haarmann [sic] der Metzger“ (“Fritz Haarmann the butcher“) by the band Macabre, and has even been used as a company logo for Beton Kopf Media, a record label.


Though Fritz wasn’t mentioned or referenced in Lucky, Floyd Feylinn Ferell’s habit of dismembering his victims post-mortem and selling them as meat to unsuspecting customers appears to be an allusion to a rumor that Fritz did the exact same thing. Fritz was mentioned in Magnum Opus, when the BAU compared his sloppy method of drawing blood from his victims (by biting) with that of the prominent unsub, who was more organized, using a tube instead. A scene where Wallace Hines feeds the pieces of a victim’s head to unsuspecting restaurant customers in The Inspiration is also a possible allusion to the aforementioned rumor.


The New York Times clebrated Halloween with an article entitled: Victorian Cocktails and Medical Curiosities in (Where Else?) Brooklyn


Tracing the History of Biometrics


Fingerprint being scanned. Credit: Rachmaninoff – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0; Wikimedia Commons (Wikipedia)



While in today’s world biometrics uses cutting-edge technologies to identify terrorists and criminals, the practice of distinguishing humans based on intrinsic physical or behavior traits goes back thousands of years.


Fingerprints have been found on ancient Babylonian clay tablets, seals, and pottery, as early as 500 BCE. They have also been found on the walls of Egyptian tombs and on Minoan, Greek, and Chinese pottery, as well as on bricks and tiles from ancient Babylon and Rome. Some of these fingerprints were deposited unintentionally by the potters and masons as a natural consequence of their work, and others were made in the process of adding decoration. However, on some pottery, fingerprints have been impressed so deeply into the clay that they were possibly intended to serve as an identifying mark by the maker. Fingerprints were used as signatures in ancient Babylon in the second millennium BCE. In order to protect against forgery, parties to a legal contract would impress their fingerprints into a clay tablet on which the contract had been written. By 246 BCE, Chinese officials were impressing their fingerprints into the clay seals used to seal documents. With the advent of silk and paper in China, parties to a legal contract impressed their handprints on the document. Sometime before 851 CE, an Arab merchant in China, Abu Zayd Hasan, witnessed Chinese merchants using fingerprints to authenticate loans. By 702, Japan allowed illiterate petitioners seeking a divorce to “sign“ their petitions with a fingerprint.


Although ancient peoples probably did not realize that fingerprints could uniquely identify individuals, references from the age of the Babylonian king Hammurabi (reigned 1792-1750 BCE) indicate that law officials would take the fingerprints of people who had been arrested. During China’s Qin Dynasty, records have shown that officials took hand prints, foot prints as well as finger prints as evidence from a crime scene. In China, around 300 CE, handprints were used as evidence in a trial for theft. By 650, the Chinese historian Kia Kung-Yen remarked that fingerprints could be used as a means of authentication. In his Jami al-Tawarikh (Universal History), the Persian physician Rashid-al-Din Hamadani (also known as “Rashideddin“, 1247-1318) refers to the Chinese practice of identifying people via their fingerprints, commenting: “Experience shows that no two individuals have fingers exactly alike.“ In Persia at this time, government documents may have been authenticated with thumbprints.


In 1665, the Italian physician Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) briefly mentioned the existence of patterns of ridges and sweat glands on the fingertips. In 1684, the English physician, botanist, and microscopist Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) published the first scientific paper to describe the ridge structure of the skin covering the fingers and palms. In 1685, the Dutch physician Govard Bidloo (1649-1713) published a book on anatomy which also illustrated the ridge structure of the fingers. A century later, in 1788, the German anatomist Johann Christoph Andreas Mayer (1747-1801) recognized that fingerprints are unique to each individual. Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787-1869), a Czech physiologist and professor of anatomy at the University of Breslau, published a thesis in 1823 discussing 9 fingerprint patterns, but he did not mention any possibility of using fingerprints to identify people.


By the mid-1800s, the industrial revolution sparked rapid city growth, and a standard form of identifying the general public – and criminals – was necessary. Some police adopted the Bertillon system (a.k.a. anthropometrics), invented in France, which recorded arm-length, height and other body measurements on index cards. However, with no standards in place, errors were frequent. Measuring one metric – a fingerprint – became the method of choice in the late 1800s when Edward Henry, inspector general of police in Bengal, India, created the Henry System, a classifying system that’s still used today. In 1840, following the murder of Lord William Russell, a provincial doctor, Robert Blake Overton, wrote to Scotland Yard suggesting checking for fingerprints but the suggestion, though followed up, did not lead to their routine use by the police for another 50 years. Some years later, the German anatomist Georg von Meissner (1829-1905) studied friction ridges, and five years after this, in 1858, Sir William James Herschel initiated fingerprinting in India. In 1877 at Hooghly (near Calcutta) he instituted the use of fingerprints on contracts and deeds to prevent the then-rampant repudiation of signatures and he registered government pensioners’ fingerprints to prevent the collection of money by relatives after a pensioner’s death. Herschel also fingerprinted prisoners upon sentencing to prevent various frauds that were attempted in order to avoid serving a prison sentence.


In 1863, Paul-Jean Coulier (1824-1890), professor for chemistry and hygiene at the medical and pharmaceutical school of the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris, discovered that iodine fumes can reveal fingerprints on paper. In 1880, Dr. Henry Faulds, a Scottish surgeon in a Tokyo hospital, published his first paper on the subject in the scientific journal Nature, discussing the usefulness of fingerprints for identification and proposing a method to record them with printing ink. He also established their first classification and was also the first to identify fingerprints left on a vial. Returning to the UK in 1886, he offered the concept to the Metropolitan Police in London but it was dismissed at that time. Faulds wrote to Charles Darwin with a description of his method but, too old and ill to work on it, Darwin gave the information to his cousin, Francis Galton, who was interested in anthropology. Having been thus inspired to study fingerprints for ten years, Galton published a detailed statistical model of fingerprint analysis and identification and encouraged its use in forensic science in his book Finger Prints. He had calculated that the chance of a “false positive“ (two different individuals having the same fingerprints) was about 1 in 64 billion. Juan Vucetich, an Argentine chief police officer, created the first method of recording the fingerprints of individuals on file, associating these fingerprints to the anthropometric system of Alphonse Bertillon, who had created, in 1879, a system to identify individuals by anthropometric photographs and associated quantitative descriptions. In 1892, after studying Galton’s pattern types, Vucetich set up the world’s first fingerprint bureau. In that same year, Francisca Rojas of Necochea, was found in a house with neck injuries, whilst her two sons were found dead with their throats cut. Rojas accused a neighbor, but despite brutal interrogation, this neighbor would not confess to the crimes. Inspector Alvarez, a colleague of Vucetich, went to the scene and found a bloody thumb mark on a door. When it was compared with Rojas’ prints, it was found to be identical with her right thumb. She then confessed to the murder of her sons.


A Fingerprint Bureau was established in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, in 1897, after the Council of the Governor General approved a committee report that fingerprints should be used for the classification of criminal records. Working in the Calcutta Anthropometric Bureau, before it became the first Fingerprint Bureau in the world, were Azizul Haque and Hem Chandra Bose. Haque and Bose were Indian fingerprint experts who have been credited with the primary development of a fingerprint classification system eventually named after their supervisor, Sir Edward Richard Henry. The Henry Classification System, co-devised by Haque and Bose, was accepted in England and Wales when the first United Kingdom Fingerprint Bureau was founded in Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police headquarters, London, in 1901. Sir Edward Richard Henry subsequently achieved improvements in dactyloscopy.


In the United States, Dr. Henry P. DeForrest used fingerprinting in the New York Civil Service in 1902, and by 1906, New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Joseph A. Faurot, an expert in the Bertillon system and a finger print advocate at Police Headquarters, introduced the fingerprinting of criminals to the United States. The Scheffer case of 1902 is the first case of the identification, arrest and conviction of a murderer based upon fingerprint evidence. Alphonse Bertillon identified the thief and murderer Scheffer, who had previously been arrested and his fingerprints filed some months before, from the fingerprints found on a fractured glass showcase, after a theft in a dentist’s apartment where the dentist’s employee was found dead. It was able to be proved in court that the fingerprints had been made after the showcase was broken. A year later, Alphonse Bertillon created a method of getting fingerprints off smooth surfaces and took a further step in the advance of dactyloscopy.


Many criminals wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. However, the gloves themselves can leave prints that are as unique as human fingerprints. After collecting glove prints, law enforcement can match them to gloves that they have collected as evidence or to prints collected at other crime scenes. In many jurisdictions the act of wearing gloves itself while committing a crime can be prosecuted as an inchoate offense. As many offenses are crimes of opportunity, assailants do not always possess gloves when they commit their illegal activities. Thus, assailants have been observed using pulled-down sleeves, pieces of clothing, and other fabrics to handle objects and touch surfaces while committing crimes. With the widespread use of computers in the late 20th century, new possibilities for digital biometrics emerged. Although the idea to use the iris for identification purposes was suggested in the 1930s, the first iris recognition algorithm wasn’t patented until 1994 and became available commercially the next year. At the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., face recognition was used to capture an image of each of the 100,000 fans via a security camera and checked electronically against mug shots from the Tampa police. Federal government coordination started in 2003 with the National Science and Technology Council establishing an official subcommittee on biometrics, and a year later the Department of Defense implemented the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to help track and identify national security threats.


Scipione Riva-Rocci (1863-1937), Physician & Inventor


By Hans Christophersen – Danish National Archive,

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org



Scipione Riva Rocci was an Italian physician, born August 1863 in Almese, Piedmont. He was an internist, pathologist and pediatrician; and is best known for the invention of an easy-to-use cuff-based version of the mercury sphygmomanometer for the measurement of blood pressure.


Riva Rocci graduated in medicine and surgery in 1888 from the University of Turin. From 1888 to 1898 he acted as assistant lecturer at the propaedeutic medical clinic in Turin under the guidance of Carlo Forlanini and assisted him in the application of “iatrogenic pneumothorax“ for treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. In 1894 he graduated in pathology and in 1907 in pediatrics. In 1898, he followed Forlanini to the University of Pavia where he continued to contribute to the development of Forlanini’s method by showing that the technique did not have a major adverse effect on lung function. From 1900 until 1928 was chief clinician and director of the civic hospital in Varese, and helped to modernize the hospital by opening sanatorium wings and introducing vaccination, radiology and other methods to fight tuberculosis. From 1909 to 1916, he occupied the first chair of pediatrics at Pavia University.



Illustration of Riva-Rocci’s spygmomanometer in use.

Source: Wikipedia Commons



In 1928 he retired from his medical positions due to a neurological condition, probably encephalitis letharica, which he may have contracted from a patient or an autopsy during an epidemic in 1921. He spent the last years of his life in ill-health with paralysis agitans, and died on 15 March 1937 in Rapallo. He was buried in the small cemetery of San Michele di Pagana.


Riva Rocci’s major contribution to medicine was the invention of an easy-to-use version of the mercury sphygmomanometer which measured brachial blood pressure. The key element of this design was the use of a cuff that encircled the arm – previous designs had used rubber bulbs filled with water or air to manually compress the artery or other technically difficult methods to measure pressure. In 1896, Riva Rocci published his work describing the new sphygmomanometer in the Gazzetta Medica di Torino. In total he published four papers on the design and usage of the device between 1896 and 1897. His design included every-day objects such as an inkwell, some copper pipe, bicycle inner tubing and a quantity of mercury. Riva Rocci measured the peak (systolic) blood pressure by observing the cuff pressure at which the radial pulse was no longer palpable. This approach did not allow the measurement of diastolic blood pressure, although it was possible to estimate mean arterial pressure with the device, albeit with some difficulty.


The American neurosurgeon, Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) visited Riva Rocci at Pavia in 1901 and made drawings and was given an example of his device. On his return to the US he made a similar device with some improvements and used it successfully in Johns Hopkins Hospital, most notably in intracranial surgery. Cushing, with support from Theodore Janeway in New York City and George Crile in Cleveland, played a major role in popularizing Riva Rocci’s mercury sphygmomanometer. Subsequent improvements to the device included the use of a wider cuff (the original was only 5cm wide) and the use of Korotkoff sounds to determine systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Riva Rocci always refused to patent his invention and did not make any financial gains from its widespread use.


← Previous PageNext Page →