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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

History

In Elemental. More on Medium.

The unusual history of whiskey surgery and cocaine tooth drops

Photo: National Library of Medicine

There once was a time without pain killer. We had no aspirin, no ibuprofen, no anesthetic for surgery. How did we manage pain in the past? What led to the first breakthroughs in pain management? Can it help us confront chronic pain today?


How a scientist’s daring experiments pushed the limits of medicine

Dr. Robert White standing behind medical equipment and a brain in a jar
Dr. Robert White standing behind medical equipment and a brain in a jar
Dr. Robert White in the Brain Research Lab. Image: Permission of White Family Archive

On a cold night in Cleveland in 1971, Dr. Robert White waited for signs of life. He stood, exhausted and still enrobed in a stiff surgical coat, over an operating table. Fluorescent lights bled color from the room, leaving it sterile, silent. A rhesus monkey lay before him — its shaved neck with the stitches still showing in a zipper seam that stretched 360 degrees.


A century ago, few Americans had any idea how much they weighed. Here’s why that changed so dramatically.

Photo illustration source (Getty Images): Peter Dazeley; qingwa; typhoonski; trekandshoot; oonal

In 1922, the Commissioner of Health for Chicago had a scale installed in the lobby of City Hall. Any and all passersby were invited to come in, step on, and find out what they weighed. City residents soon flocked to the building and lined up all day long to check their weight. The scale was the hottest ticket in town.


A Black scientist’s plea to lean into the data, even as an unjust health care shadow persists in the U.S.

Photo: Marko Geber/Getty Images

I believe vaccinations are an important part of health maintenance. Every year, I get a flu vaccine and encourage my adult children to do the same. So, I was surprised when some of my friends and family members shared with me that they had no plans to take the vaccine for Covid-19 when and if it becomes available.


We’ve reached a grim coronavirus milestone

A photo of an ambulance in front of a hospital entrance.
A photo of an ambulance in front of a hospital entrance.
Photo: Terry Vine/Getty Images

By surpassing 116,000 this summer, Covid-19 deaths in the United States officially exceeded the number of total deaths from flu outbreaks or any other infectious disease outbreak in a single year or season since the 1918–19 influenza pandemic. And the Covid-19 death toll has also now exceeded the total number of Americans killed in WWI.


A look at the mistakes Americans made while wearing homemade cloth masks to protect against the Spanish flu, according to the secretary of the California State Board of Health in 1918

An American Red Cross worker wears a gauze mask during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Photo: Paul Thompson/FPG/Stringer/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now recommended that all Americans wear masks as we live through this pandemic. And so, like our relatives who faced the influenza pandemic 102 years ago, we are now covering our noses and mouths in public with cloth masks — because that’s what’s available. Except this time, our masks will be better (we hope) and definitely more colorful.


Champagne remedies, sneezing ferrets, and thousands of years of havoc


For over 100 years, the bubbly beverage has gone in and out of vogue as a wellness tonic

Illustration: Jaedoo Lee

“Three or four or five years ago, a man looked more or less ashamed of himself when he ordered ginger ale, lemon soda, or seltzer,” a bartender noted. “Nowadays, however, everything is changed. [Soft] beverages are the taste of the day.”


Illustrations by Louise Pomeroy

The untold origin story of an iconic workout machine, told one step at a time

The 1980s were a terrible time to be in the oil business in Oklahoma. After the energy crises of the 1970s, when petroleum was scarce, there was now a surplus, and the price per barrel plummeted. This was very bad news for many Oklahomans, including George Schupp and Jim Walker. Orders to their custom manufacturing company in Tulsa, where most of their customers worked in energy, dried up.

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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