Dr. William Buchan (1729-1805) was
a physician who practiced and
lectured in Edinburgh and London.
His most famous work published in
1769 titled Domestic Medicine was
the first of its kind. The book focused
on making medicine of the day more
accessible to the general public by
outlining the prevention and cure of
diseases and empowering the
common man. The book was
translated into all the major European
languages, went through 19 editions
and sold 80 000 copies during his
lifetime. Catherine the Great of
Russia was so impressed by his
work she sent him a letter of
commendation and a gold medal.
" . . . a h i s t o r y o f m e d i c i n e "
Antiquarian book collecting and research has been a passion of mine for many years, particularly works written about medicine. I find it
fascinating how far we have come with respect to understanding health and disease over the last few centuries but am equally impressed
with the accurate inferences made by many early investigators regarding diseases despite a lack of access to modern technology and
Periodically, on this page, I will present articles and cases published by physicians from the 18th and 19th centuries which will illustrate
some examples of the "evolution" of modern medicine as we know it. The articles are scanned from books in my collection and
accompanied by summary notes to help explain content. Many of the seemingly "archaic" treatments will be explained and linked to a
growing body of literature and research from the last century in order to explain mechanisms of action and related physiologic principles.
I hope you enjoy !!!
Article 1: "Asthma"
This first of a series of articles is taken from Dr.
WIlliam Buchan's Domestic Medicine, 12th ed,
published in 1791, in which Dr. Buchan describes
the nature, causes and management of Asthma.
Although the work was published 220 years ago, it
is a compelling read as many of the treatments
described have scientifically demonstrated
A note on the typography of this work: The long, medial or descending s (ſ) is a form of the
minuscule letter s formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word,
for example ſinfulneſs ("sinfulness").
Thus, the above sentence reads: "THE asthma is a disease..." (This form of typeface went out
of style in Britain and the United States, between 1795 and 1810).
** I recommend you read the
original paragraph first, then
refer to the summary notes in
the light grey boxes to the side,
some of which will contain
footnotes which will be found in
the dark grey boxes adjacent.
These will contain relevant
studies and citations illustrating
the medical or scientific basis
for any details or treatments
mentioned in the original work.
s u m m a r y & d i s c u s s i o n
c i t e d a r t i c l e s
For those of you interested in reading through some of the
original cited articles please click on the links below:
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1 - 2 Largo
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