Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Giants, and How to Fight Them.

 The Giants, and How to Fight Them is a Christian work by Rev R. Newton, that dates from 1862. It provides a valuable insight into moral, spiritual and colonial values of the period. It is also of historical interest for those interested in education and children's reading at this time.

The Giants described in his book are Heathenism, Selfishness, Covetousness, Ill-Temper, and Intemperance ("Often he is seen covered with dirt, gathered from the gutter where he has been lying."). An example of Newton's writing follows.

The first giant I am to speak of, is the Giant Heathenism. 

This giant doesn't live here. He is found in countries where the Gospel is not known. His castles may be seen in Africa, and in India, in China, and in the islands of the sea. He is a huge giant. He has a great many heads, more indeed than I can pretend to count. In every country where idols are worshipped one of the heads of this giant may be found. One of these heads is called Juggernaut; another is called Brahma; another Buddha, and many such like names. This giant is very strong, and very cruel. We read in that interesting book called "Pilgrim's Progress," about a giant whose name was Despair, and who lived in a castle called "Doubting Castle." He used to seize the pilgrims to the heavenly city, as they ventured on his grounds. When he had caught them, he used to thrust them into a dark, dismal dungeon, and beat them with his great club; and treat them so badly that many of them were driven to kill themselves. He was a very strong giant, and very cruel. And Heathenism, the giant of whom I am speaking, is just like him in these respects.

He Is Vert Strong. He is so strong that he keeps six hundred millions of people in his dungeons all the time. They are bound hand and foot. They cannot possibly get out, till the friends of Jesus attack the giant, and make him let go of them.

And he is Very Cruel, as well as very strong. The things that are done in some of the dungeons where he dwells show how cruel he is. Look at India. There is Juggernaut, one of the heads of this giant. This idol is kept on a great heavy car. At certain seasons of the year, when they have a festival, this car is dragged out. Hundreds of people take hold of the rope and pull it along; and while it rolls on, great numbers of men and women will throw themselves down before the car, and be crushed to death under its wheels, as they roll over them. For miles around the temple you may see the bones of the poor creatures who have been crushed in this way.

In other parts of his dungeon this giant makes his poor wretched prisoners put iron hooks through the flesh, on the back of their bodies, and then swing themselves round, with the whole weight of their bodies resting on these hooks.

In other parts, he makes his poor prisoners kill a great many of their innocent children, as soon as they are born. Sometimes their parents will dig a hole in the ground, and bury their baby, alive, in it. Sometimes they will throw them into the river, to be drowned, or devoured by alligators. In some places, along the river Ganges, there are crocodiles that live almost altogether on the dear little babies that are thrown in, by their cruel mothers, to be devoured alive by those horrible monsters.

In the South Sea Islands, three out of four of all the children born used to be killed.

In one tribe of people in India, that numbered 12,000 men, there were only thirty women. All the rest had been killed when they were young.

In the city of Pekin many infants are thrown out into the streets every night. Sometimes they are killed, at once, by the fall. Sometimes they are only half killed, and linger, moaning in agony, till the morning. Then the police go round, and pick them up, and throw them, altogether, into a hole, and bury them.

In Africa the children are sometimes burnt alive. In India they are sometimes exposed in the woods till they either starve to death, or are devoured by the jackals and vultures. In the South Sea Islands they used, sometimes, to strangle their babies; while at other times they would break all their joints; first their fingers and toes, then their ankles and wrists, and then their elbows and knees.

Surely they are horrible dungeons in which such dreadful things are done! And the giant Heathenism, who makes his prisoners do such things, must be indeed a cruel giant!

Well, what are we to do to this giant? Why, we must Fight him, as David did Goliath. We do not expect to kill him outright. He will never be killed till Jesus comes again. He Himself will kill the giant Heathenism. But we can cut off some of the giants' heads, and set some of his prisoners free. We are bound, in duty, to fight against this giant. But how are we to do this? Just as David did. He fought against Goliath with a sling and a stone. He picked the stones out of the brook, and hurled them at the giant. And this is what we must do. The Bible is the brook to which we must go. The truths which it contains are the stones that we must use.
When these truths are hurled against the head of this giant, they will sink into it just as David's pebble did into Goliath's head—and he will fall.

A Chinese idolater had become a Christian. He stood among his countrymen, one day, distributing some tracts. They were taken into the interior of China, and read. The reading of them led the people of many towns and villages to give up the worship of idols. This destroyed one of the heads of the giant. In the Sandwich Islands another of his heads has been destroyed; and another in the Islands of New Zealand; and another in the Feejee Islands. And Sunday-school children are trying to help in this work, when they assist in making contributions to, the Missionary cause. We are helping to throw the stones of truth at the heads of the giant Heathenism. When the Missionaries preach of Jesus to the heathen, they are slinging stones at the giant's head. God directs the stones which they throw, and makes them effectual to wound and disable the giant. David never could have killed Goliath, if left to himself. But God helped him, and then the stone did its work. And so God will help us: so He will help all who fight against the great cruel giant—Heathenism. Then let us go on, like brave giantkillers. We are sure to succeed, for God has promised that the Giant shall be killed at last.

The first giant is Heathenism. We are to fight him by throwing stones of truth at him.

But now let us go on to speak of some other giants. The one I have just spoken of lives a great way off from us. The others we are to fight against live near us. They may be found in our country ; in our own city; in our own homes; yes, even in our own Hearts. 

[My edition was awarded to Thomas Helm, 1st prize for arithmetic, Leith High school, 16th July 1874; the book was passed to Isabel helm in 1911] 

Giant Intemperance

Vegetable Monsters, Triffids, and Agriculture

Monstrous Plants such as TRIFFIDS are familiar from  John Wyndham's 1951 novel The Day of the Triffids and Simon Clark's 2001 sequel The Night of the Triffids.

Triffids: vegetable monsters are curiously disabled and humanized as this quotation from Chapter 2 demonstrates:

"When it "walked" it moved rather like a man on crutches. Two of the blunt "legs" slid forward, then the whole thing lurched as the rear one drew almost level with them, then the two in front slid forward again. At each "step" the long stem whipped violently back and forth; it gave one a kind of seasick feeling to watch it. As a method of progress it looked both strenuous and clumsy—faintly reminiscent of young elephants at play. One felt that if it were to go on lurching for long in that fashion it would be bound to strip all its leaves if it did not actually break its stem. Nevertheless, ungainly though it looked, it was contriving to cover the ground at something like an average walking pace."

But popular interest in vegetable teratology is not new. Some time ago I purchased a copy of M. C. Cooke's Freaks and Marvels of Plant Life; or, Curiosities of Vegetation (1882). While some critics have suggested that there was a clear separation of science, wonder, and religion by the middle of the eighteenth century, it is significant that this book was published under the direction of the London Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Also noteworthy is its opening statement that 'The Labours of Mr Darwin in this direction deserve to be more generally known than they are.' (p. 1). Chapter 2 opens with a detailed discussion of CARNIVOROUS PLANTS.
Plant swallows a bird

And here is another discussion of this topic from an 1829 Encyclopaedia:

Monsters, Vegetable. Monsters are more common in the vegetable than in the animal kingdom, because the different juices are more easily deranged and confounded together, and because the methods of propagation are more numerous.

Leaves are often seen, from the internal parts of which other leaves spring forth; and it is not uncommon to see flowers of the ranunculus, from the middle of which issues a stalk bearing another flower.

M. Bonnet informs us that, in certain warm and rainy years, he has frequently met with monsters of this kind in rose-trees. He saw a rose, from the centre of which issued a square stalk of a whitish color, tender, and without prickles, which at its top bore two flower-buds opposite to each other, and totally destitute of a calyx; a little above the buds issued a petal of a very irregular shape. Upon the prickly stalk, which supported the rose, a leaf was observed which had the shape of trefoil, together with a broad flat pedicle. He also mentions some monstrous productions which have been found in fruits with kernels, analogous in their nature to those which occur in the flowers of the ranunculus and of the rose-tree.

 He has seen a pear, from the eye of which issued a tuft of thirteen to fourteen leaves, very well shaped, and many of them of the natural size. He has seen another pear which gave rise to a ligneous and knotty stalk, on which grew another pear somewhat larger than the first.

The lilium album polyanthos, observed some years ago at Breslaw, which bore on its top a bundle of flowers, consisting of 102 lilies, all of the common shape, is well known.

These vegetable productions which are so extraordinary, and so contrary to the common course of things, nevertheless present deviations subject to particular laws, and reducible to certain principles, by distinguishing such as are perpetuated either by seed or by transplanting, from those which are only accidental and passing.

Monstrosities which are perpetuated exist in the original organisation of the seed of the plant, such as marked or curled leaves.

The word monster is more properly applied to those irregularities in plants which arise from frequent transplantation, and from a particular culture, such as double flowers, &c. but those monstrosities which are not perpetuated, and which arise from the accidental and transient causes deranging the primitive organisation of the plant, when it comes to be unfolded, from a superfluity or scarcity of juices, a depravation of the vessels contributing to nutrition, the sting of insects, or contusions and natural grafts, retain also the name of monsters.

Of this kind are knobs or swellings, stunting, gall-nuts, certain streaks, and other similar defects. One species may be compared with another; but a monster can only be put in comparison with an individual of the species from which it comes. See the Observations Botaniques of M. Schlotterbec, of Basil, concerning monsters in plants.

Text from The London Encyclopaedia: Or, Universal Dictionary of Science (1829), Volume 15, edited by Thomas Curtis, p. 60.

With genetic engineering and modification of plants it looks like this topic will stay current for some time to come:

'Frankenstein' crops could be grown in secret
to halt GM trial sabotage

By Sean Poulter (The Daily Mail)

greenpeace demonstration
Read more:

Restless Phantoms trouble Scrooge

The apparition walked backward from him; and, at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that, when the spectre reached it, it was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Marley's Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience as in surprise and fear; for, on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the night became as it had been when he walked home.

Text from  Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843)

Scrooge - Door Knocker

Monday, 25 June 2012

Monstrosity and Class in Britain and the United States - Soup Kitchens then and now

 Two grotesque reports from today's Guardian newspaper:

Charles Dickens identified as author of mystery article

An article championing the rights of the working classes, published in one of the journals edited by Dickens for more than 20 years, has been attributed to the author himself.

Charles Dickens has been identified as the author of a previously unattributed article which attacks the middle classes for patronising the "working man".

"Who has not been outraged by observing that cheerfully patronising mode of dealing with poor people which is in vogue at our soup-kitchens and other depôts of alms?,"

runs the article, which was published anonymously on 18 April 1863 in the weekly magazine All the Year Round, under Charles Dickens's editorship.

"There is a particular manner of looking at the soup through a gold double eye-glass, or of tasting it, and saying, 'Monstrous good – monstrous good indeed; why, I should like to dine off it myself!' which is more than flesh and blood can bear."

Monday 25 June 2012 15.14 BST; read the full article here.

Jews - Spitalfields - London

Demand for food parcels explodes as welfare cuts and falling pay hit home

Early-warning indicator should set alarm bells ringing about poverty levels, government told.

Falling incomes and welfare spending cuts have triggered an explosion in demand for emergency food parcels as Britain's poorest families struggle to put a meal on the table, say charities.
FareShare, a charity that supplies millions of free meals to charities, food banks and breakfast clubs using food donated by supermarkets, said it could not keep pace with demand, which it expected to continue growing for at least five years.

Washington DC - Soup Kitchen - 1936
 "We are experiencing ridiculous growth. The only brake is how much food we can get out of the industry. We have the operational capacity to deliver more food and the charities that want to take that food," said Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare.

"Monster of the Future" - Conference

Monsters and the Monstrous

 Monday 10th September – Wednesday 12th September 2012
Mansfield College, Oxford

Copy of the earlier Call for Papers:

For this 10th Anniversary of the Monsters and the Monstrous Project we are looking forward to the future, and so are starting from Franco Moretti’s comment that “the monster expresses the anxiety that the future will be monstrous.” Our focus then will be on Monsters of the Future, no matter from which time or place that future is viewed. So whether the present is Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Romantic, Modernist or Post Modernist it is the ways that, as further noted by Moretti, a “new order of beings” makes manifest the terror of an unknown and uncontrollable tomorrow and the forms these creatures take.

As such the monster becomes not the return of the repressed but an immanent Imaginary that constantly harasses and harangues the borders of the Real. Just as Grendel, Caliban, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Moreau’s creatures and the clones from Blade Runner can be seen to manifest a hybrid future that blurs the borders between human/non-human, the humane and the in-humane, the converse is equally true where the tomorrow they envision is as much degenerative as it is evolutionary. Here, as in Wells’ the Time Machine, or Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, the future is in fact a portal to the past and that the true anxiety we feel is not for inevitable change but for a monstrous stasis that, like the vampire, will lock us forever in a never-ending present (not unlike Wittgenstein’s immortality of the never-ending moment). 

This then is a call for monstrous visions of the future, whether it is a new and alien land or one that is only too familiar; for the Post-Human, the Non-Human and the Anti-Human, the Robot, the Golem and the Cyborg, the Pure-bred, the Hybrid and the Mudblood, the Unborn, the Unliving and the  Undead.
Papers, reports, work-in-progress, workshops and pre-formed panels are invited on issues related to any of the following themes:

Monstrous Places/Spaces of the Future:

~The city, the town, the home of the future.
~Environmental disasters, global warming, nuclear meltdowns, plagues and terra incognito.
~New Worlds, forgotten worlds, undiscovered worlds: Atlantis, Shangri-la. Eldorado

Human Monsters:

~Medical experimentation, cloning, reproduction.
~Cyborgs, robots and inanimate bodies made real
~Hybrids, both real and supernatural, post-human and beyond human.
~Evolution and degeneration
~Actual bodies and supernatural bodies.
~Monsterisation of the human body: fragmentation, surgical modification and bodies without organs

Monstrous Aliens & Alien Invaders:

~Invasions of unknown beings, conquistadors, Martians, heavenly or alien life forms.
~Humans as invaders, Starship Troopers, Iain M. Banks’ The Culture

~Parasites, diseases, flora and influences

Monstrous Generations:

~The glorification of Youth, Logan’s Run andIn Time.
~Monstrous adolescents.
~Demonic children and alien babies.
~Middle-aged zombies and serial killers, possessed grandparents

~Romantacising the Monster: Paranormal Romance, dark lovers and heroes, Twilight, Vampire Diaries and Dexter.

Monstrous Politics:
~Protest, revolt and revolution
~Zombie Capitalism and undead labour
~Class, status and the aristocracy
~Post colonialism, diasporas and migration.
~Ageism, sexism, health-ism and separatism e.g, District 9, Metropolis, Matrix, Daybreakers.

Papers can be accepted which deal solely with specific monsters. This project will run concurrently with our project on The Erotic– we welcome any papers considering the problems or addressing issues on Monsters and The Erotic for a cross-over panel. We also welcome pre-formed panels on any aspect of the monstrous or in relation to crossover panel(s).
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 16th March 2012. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 22nd June 2012. Abstracts should be submitted to the Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e) body of abstract, f) up to 10 keywordsE-mails should be entitled: Monsters Abstract Submission
Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). Please note that a Book of Abstracts is planned for the end of the year. All accepted abstracts will be included in this publication.We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
Organising Chairs .
The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted for and presented at this conference are eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to go forward for development into a themed ISBN hard copy volume. Some papers may also be invited for inclusion in the Journal of Monsters and the Monstrous.
Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.

"Monsters and the Monstrous" Journal

Monsters and the Monstrous is a biannual peer reviewed global journal that serves to explore the broad concept of “The Monster” and “The Monstrous” from a multifaceted inter-disciplinary perspective. 

The journal publishes work that seeks to investigate and assess the enduring influence and imagery of monsters and the monstrous on human culture throughout history. 

In particular, the journal will have a dual focus with the intention of examining specific ‘monsters’ as well as evaluating the role, function and consequences of persons, actions or events identified as ‘monstrous’. The history and contemporary cultural influences of monsters and monstrous metaphors will also be examined.

Perspectives are sought from those engaged in the fields of literature, media studies, cultural studies, history, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, health and theology. Ideas are welcomed from those involved in academic study, fictional explorations, and applied areas (e.g. youth work, criminology and medicine).

Volume 1, Number 1, Table of Contents (pdf) (97,41 KB)
Advisory and Editorial Boards
Paul L Yoder
(Truman State University, USA)

Peter Mario Kreuter
(Südost-Institut, Regensburg, Germany)

Sorcha Ni Fhlainn (Reviews)
(Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland)

Editorial Board
Peter Dendle
Pennsylvania State University, USA

Duane Kight
Haverford College, Philadelphia, USA

David White
University of Calgary, Canada

William Rable
Saint Louis University, USA

Roger Davis
Grant MacEwan College, Canada

Cristina Santos
Brock University, Canada

Call for Submissions
The Editors welcome contributions to the journal in the form of articles, reviews, reports, art and/or visual pieces and other forms of submission.

Contributions to the journal should be original and not under consideration for other publications at the same time as they are under consideration for this publication. Submissions are to be made electronically wherever possible using either Microsoft® Word or .rtf format.

Length Requirements:
Articles - 5,000 – 7,000 words.
Reflections, reports and responses - 1,000 – 3,000 words.
Book reviews - 500 – 4,000 words.
Other forms of contributions are welcome.

Submission Information:
Send submissions via e-mail using the following Subject Line:
‘Journal: Contribution Type (article/review/...): Author Surname’

Submissions E-Mail Address:
Submissions will be acknowledged within 48 hours of receipt.

Style Sheets: all submissions should be formatted in accordance with the journal style sheets.

Volume 1, Number 1
March 2011
Download Table of Contents (pdf)
Published twice per year: 1st March and 1st September

There may also be one special focus edition each year, connected to the Monsters and the Monstrous project conference and published in December. The special edition price is not included in the subscription rates.

Individual subscriptions are £39.95 for 2 editions per year.
Institutional subscriptions are £79.95 for 2 editions per year.
Single Issue purchaese are £25.95 per edition.

Postage in the UK is free. Postage for Europe and Rest of the World is charged at a single edition cost.

Books for Review
Books for review should be sent to:
Dr Rob Fisher
Priory House
149B Wroslyn Road
Freeland, Oxfordshire
OX29 8HR
United Kingdom

Simulated childhood--Mechanized children

Simulated childhood--Mechanized children 
Calls for papers: Red Feather Journal

Red Feather Journal (, an online, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal of children’s visual culture, seeks submissions for the Fall 2012 issue (deadline Aug, 15, 2012) that explore images of simulated children, simulated childhood, or mechanized children. Simulated or mechanized children are found in such films as AI, Pinocchio, Village of the Damned, Child’s Play, Doll Graveyard, Coraline and in television shows like “Howdy Doody,” “Torchy the Battery Boy,” and “Small Wonder.” Other examples of simulated children simulated children within material culture are jewelry items, glassware, masks, or other items in the shape of a child. Submissions may explore any aspect of the simulated child/childhood or mechanized child from a variety of disciplines.

Red Feather Journal will also consider submissions of tasteful photo essays or artistic works the depict simulated or mechanized children and/or childhood. Copyright information, including permission for use of each image, must be included with the submission. Red Feather will not use any image without the express written consent of its copyright holder.

International submissions are encouraged.

Red Feather Journal is published twice a year, in March and September, and adheres to the MLA citation system. Authors are welcome to submit articles in other citations systems, with the understanding that, upon acceptance, conversion to MLA is a condition of publication. Red Feather Journal is indexed through EBSCO host and MLA bibliography.

Interested contributors please submit the full paper, an abstract, and a brief biography (please include full contact information) as attachments in Word to or to
Deadline for submissions for the Fall 2012 issue is August 15, 2012.
cfp categories: 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Human Teratology: Environmental Causes of Birth Defects

"UCSD Department of Pediatrics & the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences bring together world-renowned experts in the field of Human Teratology in a new series providing clinicians an update on the environmental causes of birth defects.

In this program, Edward Lammer, M.D., Oakland Children's Hospital, discusses Gene Environment Interaction. Series: Human Teratology: Environmental Causes of Birth Defects [4/2007] [Health and Medicine] [Professional Medical Education] [Show ID: 12171] "

Heteromorphous Productions in the Heart

IN this text Austin Flint discusses Heteromorphous Productions,  and enlargement of the heart. The text selected is from his book A Practical treatise on the diagnosis, pathology, and treatment of diseases of the Heart. Second Edition. (Philadelphia 1870).

Heteromorphous Productions.—The various morbid productions which, from their being foreign to the structure of the part in which they are seated, are distinguished as heteromorphous, occur very rarely in the walls of the heart. They are, however, sometimes observed. Specimens of morbid growths or tumors, belonging to the classes lipoma or fatty, fibroma or fibrous, myoma or fleshy, and syphiloma or gummy, are occasionally met with. As stated by Raynaud, from their infrequency these are interesting chiefly as pathological curiosities. They are unattended by distinctive symptoms or signs, and they accordingly defy diagnosis. In a practical point of view, therefore, they have but little importance. Few organs in the body are more exempt from these, and other heteromorphous productions, than the heart. So slight is the probability of their existence in any individual case, that they arc scarcely to be taken into account in the investigation of cardiac affections which are evidently anomalous. This statement will apply to tubercles. Miliary tubercles are sometimes observed upon the surface of the heart; but collections of the product known as yellow or cheesy tuberculous matter are amongst the rarest of pathological curiosities. (Page 123)


Definition and varieties of hypertrophy and dilatation—Normal dimensions and weight of the heart—Enlargement by hypertrophy—Concentrio hypertrophy—Symptoms and pathological effects of hypertrophy—Physical signs and diagnosis of enlargement and hypertrophy—Situation and anatomical relations of the heart in health—Alterations in degree and extent of dulness on percussion in hypertrophy—Altered situation and extent of the apex-beat, and abnormal force of impulse in hypertrophy, as determined by palpation—Abnormal modifications of the heart-sounds—Diminished extent and degree of the respiratory murmur and vocal resonance within the prsecordia in hypertrophy, as determined by auscultation—Results of the clinical study of the heartsounds in health—Enlargement of the prsecordia and abnormal movements in hypertrophy, as determined by inspection—Increased size of the chest, as determined by mensuration—Summary of the physical signs of enlargement of the heart—Summary of the physical Bigns distinctive of enlargement by hypertrophy—Treatment of hypertrophy—Enlargement by dilatation—Symptoms and pathological effects of dilatation— Physical signs and diagnosis of dilatation—Summary of the physical signs distinctive of enlargement by dilatation—Treatment of dilatation.

Enlargement Of Tiie Heart is a term which embraces abnormal increase of this organ, as regards either volume or weight, or, as is commonly the case, increase both in weight and volume. Increase of the volume of the heart, and increase of its weight, are different forms of enlargement, either of which, although they are usually associated, may exist independently of the other. The heart may exceed the limit of health, as regards weight, from an increased thickness of its walls, the normal volume being retained. This is a condition sometimes found after death, although, in the vast majority of the cases in which the weight is augmented, the volume exceeds the healthy limit. On the other hand, the volume of the heart may be abnormally great, the cavities being enlarged, while the thickness of the walls is so far diminished that the normal weight is retained. (Page 17)

Friday, 22 June 2012

John Hunter’s Museum of Monsters

HUNTER, JOHN (1728-1793), anatomist and surgeon.

"Hunter designed his museum to illustrate the entire phenomena of life in all organisms, in health and disease. Its essential plan was physiological. It included, besides wet preparations which enabled all structures with similar functions to be compared, dried and osteological preparations of all kinds, monsters and malformations, fossils, plants and parts of plants, and all manner of products of diseased action. There were also many drawings, oil-paintings, and casts illustrating disease. He had apparently intended to give in a catalogue an account of his observations in each department. On matters relating to dissection, preservation, and embalming, his hints and directions are of the greatest value."

More on his Life and Works here.

An Account of his Collection of Monsters

The department which next claims our attention is that containing preparations of monsters and malformations. These are disposed in two divisions, according as the preparations are preserved in spirit or in a dry state, and each division comprises four series, as arranged by Hunter.

The first series contains examples of the preternatural situation of parts. The second, of the addition of parts. The third, of the deficiency of parts. The fourth, of hermaphroditism. Several curious and valuable preparations are contained in this collection ; many have been added since Hunter's death. Amongst the latter are to be numbered two in the first series, which exhibit curious instances of one foetus becoming inclosed in the belly of another. The first is that which occurred to Mr. Highmore, of Sherborne ; in which the foetus was encysted in the belly of a young man of seventeen. In the second, which occurred to Mr. G. Young, the containing child was six months old when it died. The histories of both have been published.

Under the second head we find various examples of double parts in animals ; amongst others, of a double uterus and vagina in a woman, and one of the uteri containing a foetus of seven months.

The case of deficiency of parts is exemplified by preparations of the heads of pigs and lambs, in the former of which animals malformations appear to be very common. In several of these the whole of the face which lies anterior to the ears is wanting ; in others there is but one eye, in the centre of the forehead, with a proboscis from the forehead. Pigs so constructed go under the name of elephant pigs.

The fourth series contains preparations from the hermaphrodite cow, or free-martin, on the generative organs of which Hunter wrote a paper in the Philosophical Transactions ; as also of the organs of generation in hermaphrodite sheep and dogs. The organs of the hen pheasant, which has taken on the plumage of the cock, are also here exhibited.

Amongst the series of dry preparations the most curious is that of a double skull, which belonged to a child of six years of age. The skulls are united by their vertices ; the upper one was supplied by blood-vessels passing through the united portions ; and from the account given by eyewitnesses, the upper head seems during life to have experienced sensations, and to have exhibited mental operations, distinct from those of the lower head.

These preparations are described in the fifth part of the General Catalogue.

The works of John Hunter, with notes, ed. by J.F. Palmer. (1835) 4 vols, Vol 1, pp. 181-183

Obesity and Corpulence and other TV Monstrosities

Daniel Lambert, Courtesy of Wellcome Foundation

The current fashion for 'documentary' TV programmes on obesity and diet regimes reflects a modern obsession with popular notions of self-responsibility and moral turpitude. Also in these accounts there is an unvoiced agenda where the work of self-control and discipline is opposed to notions of carnivalesque excess and ethical indolence. In times of recession the sense is that we should all, perhaps, be tightening our belts. For those visibly marked by excess, from fat cat bankers to working class mums, the sense is that they are falling short of their civic responsibility; they are parasitic on the body politic.

I'm sure there's an element of hypocrisy too, in that these TV programmes also serve the artificially forged needs of a passive and indolent spectator, and an entertainment industry bent on turning all of us into consumers of human misfortune. How far do the producers turn viewers into exploitative voyeurs feasting on human aberration?

"Watching TV Leads to Obesity" - argues a current research study in Psychology Today, pointing out that "The more TV you watch, the fatter you become."

But the wider historical trajectory is also remarkable. If you are curious to find out more, take a look at the posting on the Wellcome Foundation website in 2010, called The Big Issue.

For historical material, I recommend the French article on “Corpulence” in the first edition of L’Encyclopédie (1751), Volume 4, p. 269. The Free Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica also provides a useful summary for the researcher (see below).

CORPULENCE, or OBESITY, is a condition of the body characterized by the over-accumulation of fat under the skin and around certain of the internal organs. In all healthy persons a greater or less amount of fat is present in these parts, and serves important physiological ends, besides contributing to the proper configuration of the body. Even a considerable measure of corpulence, however inconvenient, is not inconsistent with a high degree of health and activity, and it is only when in great excess or rapidly increasing that it can be regarded as a morbid state. The extent to which obesity may proceed is illustrated by numerous well-authenticated examples recorded in medical works, of which only a few can be hero mentioned. Thus Bright, a grocer of Maldon, in Essex, who died in 1750, in his twenty-ninth year, weighed 616 lb. Dr F. Dancel records the case of a young man of twenty-two, who died from excessive obesity, weighing 643 lb. In the Philosophical Transactions for 1813 a case is recorded of a girl of four years of age who weighed 256 lb. But the most celebrated case is that of Daniel Lambert of Leicester, who died in 1809 in his fortieth year. He is said to have been the heaviest man that ever lived, his weight being 739 lb (52 st. 11 1h). Lambert had publicly exhibited himself for some years prior to his death, which occurred suddenly at Stamford. At the inn where he died two suits of his clothes were preserved, from which some idea of his enormous dimensions may be obtained, when it is stated that his waistcoat could easily inclose seven persons of ordinary size. Lambert ate moderately, drank-only water, and slept less than most persons. He is salt to have had an excellent tenor voice.

Health cannot be long maintained under excessive obesity, for the increase in bulk of the body, rendering exercise more difficult, leads to relaxation and defective nutrition of muscle, while the accumulations of fat in the chest and abdomen occasion serious embarrassment to the functions of the various organs in those cavities. In general the mental activity of the highly corpulent becomes impaired, although there have always been many notable exceptions to this rule.

Various causes are assigned for the production of corpulence, but it must be admitted that in many cases it cannot be accounted for. In some families there exists an hereditary predisposition to an obese habit of body, the manifestation of which no precautions as to living appear capable of averting. But beyond this it is unquestionable that certain habits favour the occurrence of corpulence. A luxurious, inactive, or sedentary life, with over-indulgence in sleep and absence of mental occupation, are well recognized predisposing causes. The more immediate exciting causes are over-feeding and the large use of fluids of any kind, but especially alcoholic liquors. Fat persons are not always great eaters, though many of them are, while again, leanness and inordinate appetite are not infrequently associated. Still, it may be stated generally that indulgence in food, beyond what is requisite to repair daily waste, goes towards the increase of flesh, particularly of fat. This is more especially the case when the non-nitrogenous (the fatty, saccharine, and starchy) elements of the food are in excess. Although it is still undetermined whether the fat of the body is derived alone from these, or also from the nitrogenous (albuminous) elements of the food, it seems certain that while an excess of the latter constituents accelerates the oxidation and metamorphoses of the fatty tissues, an excess of the non-nitrogenous retards these changes, and thus tends directly to the production of obesity (Parkes). The want of adequate bodily exercise will in a similar manner produce a like effect, and it is probable that many cases of corpulence are to be ascribed to this cause alone, from the well known facts that many persons of sedentary occupation become stout, although of most abstemious habits, and that obesity frequently comes on in the middle-aged and old, who take relatively less exercise than the young, in whom it is comparatively rare. Women arc more prone to become corpulent thavi men, and appear to take on this condition more readily after the cessation of the function of menstruation.

For the prevention of corpulence and the reduction of superfluous fat many expedients have been resorted to, and numerous remedies recommended. It is unnecessary to allude to these in detail, further than to state that they embrace such regimen as bleeding, blistering, purging, starving, the use of different kinds of baths, and of drugs innumerable, most of which means have been found utterly to fail in accomplishing the desired object. The drinking of vinegar was long popularly supposed to be a remedy for obesity. It is related of the marquis of Cortona, a noted general of the duke of Alba, that by drinking vinegar he so reduced his body from a condition of enormous obesity that he could fold his skin about him like a garment. Such a remarkable result was only a proof of the injury done to his health by the excessive use of vinegar. There is no evidence, whatever, that tins liquid has any power to remove fat, while its pernicious effects upon the health, when taken in large quantity, are well known to medical men. Another medicinal agent, which has been proposed on the high authority of Dr T. King Chambers, is the liquor potasste. This medicine, which is recommended on the ground of the chemical affinity of the alkalis for fats, is direete 1 to be taken in teaspoonful doses in milk twice or thrice daily, at the same time that a restricted diet and abundant exercise is enjoined. But even this plan, although occasionally yielding good results, cannot be said to have been widely successful. The more rational and hopeful system of treatment appears to be that which is directed towards regulating the quality as well as the quantity of nutriment ingested. This method has of late ye It's received much attention, chiefly in consequence of the publication, in 1863, of a pamphlet entitled Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public by William Ranting, in which was narrated the remarkable experience of the writer in accomplishing the reduction of his own weight in a short space of time by the adoption of a particular kind of diet. Mr Booting describes the condition of obesity in which he was in August 1862, and which, although certainly less than those examples above mentioned, appears to have been sufficient to prove a source of much discomfort and even of actual suffering. After trying almost every known remedy without effect, he was induced, on the suggestion of Mr Harvey, a London aurist, to place himself upon an entirely new form of diet, which consisted chiefly in the removal, as far as possible, of all saccharine, starchy, and fat food, the reduction of liquids, and the substitution of meat or fish and fruit in moderate quantity at each meal, together with the daily use of an antacid draught. Under this regimen his weight was reduced 46 lb in the course of a few weeks, while his health underwent a marked improvement. Mr Banting's recorded experience, as might have been expected, induced many to follow his example, and in numerous instances the effects were all that could be desired. But in many cases the diminution in weight was found to be attended with such a serious impairment of health as to render the carrying out of this system impossible. It is probable that in some at least of these cases the unfavourable effects might have been avoided had the change in diet been more gradually brought about. There seems little reason to doubt that this method, founded as it is on well-recognized principles of physiological chemistry, is that which is most likely to yield the best results in the treatment of corpulence. It evidently cannot, however, be safely adopted in all cases, and ought not to be attempted to be carried out except under medical advice and observation; for however desirable it be to get rid of superabundant fat, it would be manifestly no gain were this to be achieved by the sacrifice of the general health. An important element in the treatment of obesity is the due regulation of the amount of bodily exercise, and this, too, ought to be made the subject of the physician's careful attention.


Also worth reading:

William Wadd, Cursory remarks on corpulence; or Obesity considered as a disease (1816)