Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

08 Mar 2007, 12:41 p.m.

Fixin' to Go

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2007 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I'm working on columnness right now so that I won't have to send one in while Leonard and I are away. My most recent published MC Masala: on the history of medicine and perspective.

There was a long period in the 18th and 19th centuries where researchers were making leaps and bounds in theoretical understanding, but it didn't much help patients. Regular doctors, not just scientists, had to understand that bloodletting didn't help and handwashing did; that took a while.

It's just astonishing, the things we take for granted. Vitamins were isolated less than a century ago. The first real blind clinical trial was in 1946, and it pointed to a cure for tuberculosis. Surgeons and doctors used to think of their professions as quite separate; the original Hippocratic oath banned surgery by doctors.

The Hippocratic oath also prohibited doctors from participating in certain euthanasia and abortion methods. (This is so unusual, according to what we know of ancient Greek beliefs, that it makes some historians think it was added later.) But the most surprising item in that old oath is the rule against teaching medicine to students unapproved by one's master.

You might recall my obsession with perspectives from my previous column. Being disoriented means you're making progress. Leonard and I will be visiting Mysore (in Karnataka, India) from the 10th until the 13th, and in London from the 13th until the 16th. I've never been to London before and hope it massively surprises me. I also hope Leonard doesn't get any weird tropical diseases, and that melatonin helps me fight jet lag and not be a jerk. It would also be nice if I didn't get my period during the trip, but that's probably a lost cause.

To see in England: Avedon Carol, Brendan Adkins and his host Kevan Davis. If possible: Paul Wright and Daniel Davies, as well as my friend Priya. Recommended to me: the clock room at the British Museum, Evensong at Westminster Abbey, the original walking tour of London. Requested but very mildly: a souvenir from Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop.

In closing for now: look at the coasters we made!