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Stephen Hales (1677-1761) A clergyman and scientist, most famous for his work on the circulation of plants and animals, and campaigned against the gin trade. In 1733 he was the fi rst person to measure blood pressure, by inserting a brass cannula attached to a long glass tube into the carotid artery of a horse, and noting that the blood rose up the tube to a height of 8 feet 3 inches (186mmHg). He later repeated the experiment in a range of animals, and roughly estimated the pressure in man. However, it took until the early 20th Century before a simple noninvasive method was introduced for measuring blood pressure—the mercury sphygmomanometer; and even longer before the importance of elevated blood pressure was recognized.
Richard Doll (1912-2005). Famously, reported the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer in the BMJ in 1950, which led him to stop smoking, concluding that: “The risk of developing the disease increases in proportion to the amount smoked…It may be 50 times as great among those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day as among non-smokers.”. This was confi rmed by the British Doctors’ Study in 1954, and led to a major series of public health campaigns and policy changes against smoking. He was instrumental in the development of epidemiology and clinical trials in the UK. Ironically, after his death it became apparent that he had received payments from the chemical industry for a number of years.
Frederick Banting (1891–1941) and Charles Best (1899-1978). Their discovery of insulin and its effects on glucose, from work in beagles, had a profound effect on the lives of all those with diabetes, as it paved the way for the use of insulin to treat what was then a fatal condition. Banting, but not Best, won the Nobel prize for his work, aged 32, making him the youngest ever recipient of the award in Medicine/Physiology. He died prematurely in a plane crash whilst on route to England on a secretive mission to test out an anti-gravity flying suit.
Richard Bright (1789-1858). Richard Bright began his career as a philosophy and economics student in Edinburgh, but quickly switched to medicine. He finished his training in London where he began research into kidney diseases. He is known as the father of modern nephrology, describing ‘Bright’s disease’ or the combination of protein in the urine, hypertension and oedema, and deducing from autopsy studies that this was due to kidney disease. He inspired future generations to find treatments beyond that of blood letting to reduce blood pressure.
The painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis which caused crippling hand deformity. In later life, he painted with a brush fixed between his index and middle fingers. In this way, and despite shoulder ankylosis, he completed some of his greatest works of impressionist art. Through his work he communicated the joy he took from his subjects. “Why shouldn’t art be pretty?” he said, “There are enough unpleasant things in the world”. Try to encourage those who are struggling to overcome the adversities of physical disease by engaging them in positive activities that are within their reach (or from which they can adapt). This may allow them to break through the barriers hindering them—whether perceived or real.
Questions of gastrointestinal system
Questions of nervous system