Sponsor   

Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

Click on the link below to subscribe to the MTD newsletter. If you think an article could be interesting to somebody else, click on the mail link at the top of each article to forward it. 

You are welcome to submit questions and suggestions using our "Contact Us" form. The information on this blog follows the terms on our "Privacy and Security Statement"  and cannot be construed as medical guidance or instructions for treatment. 


Click here to subscribe to the Medical Terminology Daily Newsletter

fbbuttons sm

We have 149 guests and no members online


A Moment in History

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter
Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter (1811-1859)

Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter

(1811-1859)

Thomas Dent Mutter was born on March 9, 1811, in Richmond, VA. His mother died in 1813, and his father died of tuberculosis in 1817. Thomas was orphaned when he was barely 8 years old. His father left him a somewhat meager inheritance and in his early life had to do with less that others with his objectives in life. He was well educated under the tutelage of Robert Carter, his guardian, and in 1824 he started his studies at the Hampden Sidney College of Virginia. He continued with a medical apprenticeship with a Dr. Simms in VA. He was well respected and even at his early age he would do home visits for his medical benefactor with great results. He started medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his MD in 1831. The new young doctor, Thomas Dent Mutter, MD was only 20 years of age.

At the time, Europe was the place to go to if you wanted advanced medical studies. Dr. Mutter had no money, so he applied as a ship surgeon to be able to cross the Atlantic. Once in Europe, he spent time in Paris, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Guillaume Dupuytren. He later studied for a short time in England where he met Dr. Robert Liston. Following Dupuytren's teachings, Mutter was fascinated by plastic surgery.

A chance encounter with what was to become his first well-known acquisition of a medical curiosity, Mutter started thinking on how to help those people that were known at that time as “monsters”, patients who the general public did not see, because they did not appear in public. The curiosity in question was a wax reproduction of the face of a French woman who had a “horn” arising from her forehead. This piece is on exhibit at the Mütter Museum.

Back in the United States in 1832, Thomas Dent Mutter changed his last name to give it a more “European” sound and added an “umlaut”, so now he was Thomas D. Mütter, MD. It may also be that he wanted to pay homage to his Scottish-German heritage, who knows? He opened his medical office in Philadelphia and although it took time, eventually he had a thriving practice. One of his specialties was the work on “deformities” so common at the time because of facial scars born out of the use of open fires in houses, and deformities caused by burns and loss of tissue due to chemicals used in local industry. Dr. Mütter is the pioneer of what we call today “Reconstructive Surgery”.

In 1835 he was asked to join the Medical Institute of Philadelphia as an assistant professor of Surgery. He was an instant success. Dr. Mütter was adored by his students because, he would question the students and guide them to discovery instead of just lecturing and leaving. In his Discourse eulogy of Dr. Mütter by Joseph Pancoast he writes:” The power of attracting students near him by his mingled gentleness, energy, and enthusiasm; of fixing their attention by the lucid and methodical arrangements of his Subject, by his clear demonstrations, and sprightly oral elucidations, came so readily to him, and was so early displayed) as to seem almost intuitive.” In 1841 Dr Mütter was appointed Professor of Surgery at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Dr. Mütter had always had poor health, even in childhood, and his dedication to his passion, long hours, took its toll on his body. In 1956 he set sail for Europe and resigned his teaching duties. He was named Emeritus Professor of Surgery. Unfortunately, the trip did not help, and he returned to the US in early 1958. Fearful of another winter in cold Philadelphia, he moved to Charleston, SC, where he died on March 19, 1859.

Dr. Mütter’s story does not end here. He was an avid collector and throughout his short life he had pulled together an impressive collection of medical oddities, samples, and curiosities. Knowing that his life was at an end, he negotiated with the Philadelphia College of Physicians to have them host his collection in perpetuity as well as the creation of a trust fund that would ensure that the public and medical students would have access to this incredible collection. Through the years this collection has increased and is known today as the Mütter Museum of the Philadelphia College of Physicians. I strongly urge our readers to visit this incredible museum. For more information, click here.

Personal notes: In the late 90’s, I attended a meeting of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists.  During the meeting I met Gretchen Worden, who at the time was the Curator of the Mütter museum. Gretchen was inspirational, fun, and a great conversationalist! I had the opportunity to visit Gretchen at the Mütter museum and had the luck to be treated to a “behind the scenes” tour. What an experience! I was saddened to hear that Gretchen Worden passed on August 2, 2004. Still, in my recent visit to the Mütter Museum, I was glad to see a new section at the museum that remembers Gretchen. Her biography can be read here.

I would like to thank Dr. Leslie Wolf for lending me the book by O’Keefe that lead to me writing this article. Dr. Miranda

Sources:
1. “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine” O’Keefe, C. 2015 Penguin Random House, LLC
2. “A Discourse Commemorative of the Late Professor T.D. Mütter” Pancoast, J. 1859 J Wilson Publisher
3. “Thomas Dent Mütter: the humble narrative of a surgeon, teacher, and curious collector” Baker, J, et al. The American Surgeon, Atlanta 77:iss5 662-14
4. “Thomas Dent Mutter, MD: early reparative surgeon” Harris, ES; Morgan, RF. Ann Plast Surg 1994 33(3):333-8
5. “5 Things I Learned from Thomas Dent Mütter” O’Keefe C.


"Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc., and the contributors of "Medical Terminology Daily" wish to thank all individuals who donate their bodies and tissues for the advancement of education and research”.

Click here for more information


Rare & Collectible Books at AbeBooks.com 

 

An answer regarding the death of Andreas Vesalius (2)


NOTE:  In 2014  Pavlos Plessas presented the compelling theory that Andreas Vesalius died in 1564 from scurvy on the island of Zakynthos. With his permission his original article entitled "Powerful indications that Vesalius died from scurvy" was published in this blog in 2016.

His theory was later challenged by Theo Dirix and Dr. Rudi Coninx in this same blog with the article "Did Andreas Vesalius really died from scurvy?". Pavlos Plessas' rebuttal to the latter article is published here from a letter to Theo Dirix.


...continued from: An answer regarding the death of Andreas Vesalius (1)...

8. Echtius’ treatise was only published after his death in 1556

This is incorrect. Echtius was alive almost a decade after that and heard Boucherus describe Vesalius’ death with his own ears. The treatise was first published in 1564, the year of Vesalius’ death, albeit was wrongly attributed to Wierus.

9. Echtius believed scurvy was caused by a blocked spleen, leading to an excess of black bile

Echtius believed that an excess of black bile (melancholic humour) caused scurvy. He wrote that in addition to eating preserved foods and mouldy biscuit, and drinking foul water, the following conditions led to an excess of black bile: warm air, lack of sleep, hard manual work, anxiety and fevers. Each one individually could cause scurvy even if the diet was good . The reasons for Vesalius’ illness as indicated by the sources are: eating rotten biscuit, drinking corrupt water, hot weather and extreme worrying. Please compare with the list of causes given by Echtius in his treatise.

10. It is claimed that extreme fear and irrational behaviour … are well known early symptoms [Plessas]. This is not the case

Pavlos Plessas
Pavlos Plessas
Click on the image for author information

I quote Rev. Richard Walter of the Anson expedition, who saw many of his shipmates die from scurvy: This disease is likewise usually attended with a strange dejection of spirits; and with shiverings, tremblings, and a disposition to be seized with the most dreadful terrors on the slightest accident (4). 


11. This (absence of extreme fear and irrational behaviour) is also the observation of one of the authors (RC) having observed scurvy patients in Ethiopian prisons

Did any of Dr. Coninx’s patients see other inmates die from scurvy? Did he ever observe one of his patients witness an accident? Were his patients evaluated by a psychiatrist? I would hazard the guess that the answer to all the questions is no. I choose to believe Rev. Richard Walter.

12. The Italian Pietro Bizzari based his account on what he had been told by an anonymous Venetian goldsmith

Bizzari’s account is not credible. It clashes with the accounts of three different people, who saw Vesalius’ grave in Santa Maria delle Grazie.

13. Metellus describes the symptoms of Vesalius’ illness

No, he does no such thing.

14. The possibility of rotten food as a cause of death on the ship is plausible

I hope this is not a suggestion that a great physician like Vesalius could not recognise the symptoms of food poisoning in others. If he did, it would have been possible to identify the particular source and he would not have fallen ill himself. Even if that was not possible they could have resorted to sharing the supplies of the crew, who had suffered no cases of illness. Surely it is best to be malnourished than risk death from food poisoning. In addition, had the cause of death been food poisoning, the sources would not have blamed Vesalius’ worrying for his illness. Finally, since the authors seem to agree that Metellus’ version of events is the most reliable, how is it possible for a man on the verge of death from food poisoning to be walking on the seashore of Zakynthos? Food poisoning as a cause of death is not plausible even though the sources claim the disease was somehow related to food and water shortage.

15. A 1971 study by Kinsman and Hood which allegedly claims that personality changes are amongst the first symptoms of scurvy

Why allegedly? I quote from the study: The personality changes occurred at an earlier stage of depletion than the psychomotor changes, which did not appear until obvious clinical scurvy was present (5). So the study does claim that personality changes are amongst the first symptoms of scurvy, the very first as a matter of fact. According to figure 3 of the study the MMPI T-scores started increasing when the level of Vitamin C in the body was at the equivalent of 761 mg. Clinical signs of scurvy became apparent only when the level went down to 300 mg. 

Article continued here: An answer regarding the death of Andreas Vesalius (3)

Sources:

1. "Voyages and Travels in the Levant in the Years 1749, 50, 51, 52" London 1766, p. 147
2. "Medicina Nautica: an Essay on the Diseases of Seamen" Volume III, London 1803, p. 387
3. "De magnis Hippocratis" Lienibus Libellus, Antwerp 1564, pp. 26a – 31b
4. A voyage round the world in the years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV, 5th edition, London 1749, p. 101.
5. Robert A. Kinsman and James Hood, Some behavioral effects of ascorbic acid deficiency, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 1971.
6. Fiona E. Harrison, Behavioural and neurochemical effects of scurvy in gulo knockout mice, Journal for Maritime Research, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2013.
7. Olivier Fain, Musculoskeletal manifestations of scurvy, Joint Bone Spine 72, 2005.
8. Wang et al, Effects of vitamin C and vitamin D administration on mood and distress in acutely hospitalized patients, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013.