Wilson’s Common Sense Ear Drums

George H. Wilson (1866-1949) of Louisville, Kentucky, received a patent (U.S. #476,853) for his “rimless [and] self-ventilating” artificial eardrum in 1892. Often referred as “wireless phones for the ears,” the device was made of rubber, designed to be simple in construction and “so shaped that it can be quickly and readily removed and replaced without pain, and when in position is invisible, not liable to irritate, and is a good sound conductor.” Wilson_LetterheadEarly advertisements for Wilson’s device, the “Common Sense Ear Drums,” emphasized its invisibility, both in public, and for the wearer themselves—the device was so resilience, soft, and painless, that even a user could forget they had them on. In other words, Wilson’s design ensured the prosthetic nature of the eardrums; they were so integrated with body that it became a part of it, and could be easily forgotten.

Advertisements for the Wilson Ear Drum Company additionally capitalized on the technical and scientific aspects of the device: adverts were accompanied with an anatomical drawing of the ear, demonstrating the eardrum in position. Even the copy addressed the device as a “scientific invention,” rhetorically ensuring its legitimacy over other kinds of artificial eardrums available on the market. By the 1910s, however, the company’s advertisements dramatically shifted focus from the technical and scientific towards the morose suffering of the deaf person—Wilson’s Common Sense Eardrums were not only designs of science, but a cure so that no one could remain deaf.

Ad_WilsonEardrum_1890s

The shift was due to the work of salesman Albert Lasker (1880-1952) who made a name for himself as an advertiser at the agency Lord & Thomas, by ensuring ad copy appealed to the psychological state of customers. Around 1900, Lasker proposed to Wilson a new ad copy, promising new and dramatic results. He replaced the technical drawing with a photo of Wilson cupping his hand to his ear; to Lasker, Wilson not only looked like “the deafest deaf man you ever saw,” but was evidence of a success story—deaf himself, now cured, by his own creation.[1] The new ad copy boldly proclaimed: “You Hear! When you use Wilson’s Common Sense Ear Drums.”

Ad_WilsonEardrum_1900Lasker

Other ads continued to portray deafness as curable when using Wilson’s Ear Drums, with the copy expanded at times to include testimonials. Customers could also write and request a pamphlet, which provided additional information about the benefits of the patented device in amplifying hearing; testimonials from satisfied customers further added support to the integrity and success of the device.

Ad_WilsonEardrum_1900_GettyImages

The advertisements for Wilson’ Ear Drums indicated that with the device, a d/Deaf person would be happier as they were able to participate in hearing society and include themselves in ways previously denied to them.

NOTES

[1] Jeffrey L. Cruikshank & Arthur W. Schultz, The Man who Sold America: The Amazing (but True!) Story of Albert D. Lasker and the Creation of the Advertising Industry (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2010), 52.

Advertisements

Experiences of a Deaf Man

From The Albion Magazine (1907):

When a man suddenly becomes deaf there is little or nothing he would shrink from if it afforded, or seemed to afford, the smallest chance that he would recover the enjoyment of a sense which he never properly valued until he lost it. About sixteen years ago, when well advanced in life, I suddenly lost my hearing, first in one ear and after a few days in the other; and so great was my desire for a cure, that in the course of the next twelve-month I had placed myself, consecutively, under no fewer than six medical men, most of them well-known specialists.

 

The writer then summarizes his treatments and remarks in a table:

Treatment 1: Politzer’s inflation and Eustachian Catheterism on both sides. Pilocarpine internally. Result: Deafness became absolute on both sides.

Treatment 2: Potassium Iodidum in heroic doses. Potassium Bromidum. Blisters behind Ears. Result: Depression to the verge of suicide.

Treatment 3: Phosphorus. Result: Exaltation to the verge of lunacy.

Treatment 4: Ferrum Perchloridum. Galvanic Chain. Stimulating Food, Wine. Result: none.

Treatment 5: Gaiffe’s Battery. Result: none.

Treatment 6: Nitro-Glycerine. Arsenic. Result: none.

Shock machine developed by Adolphe Gaiffe (1830-1903) for treating nervous diseases. (Gilai Collectibles)
Shock machine developed by Adolphe Gaiffe (1830-1903) for treating nervous diseases. (Gilai Collectibles)

A Chamber of the Stillness of Death: Phyllis M.T. Kerridge’s Experiments in the Silence Room

I’m beginning a new project on the historical contributions of women to otology, many of whom have been overlooked in scholarship. My current article investigates the physiological work of Dr. Phyllis Margaret Tookey Kerridge, who died on June 22, 1940, the only daughter of Mr. William Alfred Tookey of Bromley, Kent. She was educated at the City of London School of Girls and at University College London; her graduate studies commenced at the latter institution, first in chemistry and then physiology, where she was also appointed as lecturer. She also held posts in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Marine Biological Association Laboratory at Plymouth, the Carlsberg Laboratories at Copenhagen, and at London Hospital. She received her M.D. from University College Hospital, in 1933 and became member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1937.[1]

During the 1930s, Kerridge conducted experiments to measure the residual hearing capacity of children in London County Council schools, as well as experiments in teaching with electronic hearing aids. Much of her research was on patients at the Royal Ear Hospital, who were tested in the hospital’s “Silence Room:” a 3,500 cubic room in the basement of the hospital’s new building on Huntley Street, with

“walls impenetrable to extraneous noises and which will never reflect, deflect nor refract sounds—a chamber of the stillness of death, where absolute accuracy and complete consistency in results will be obtained.”

The room was built so exact tests to measure degrees of deafness can be made in ideal and constant conditions. Such stillness in this room apparently allowed people to hear heartbeats and the “flick” of their eyelids! A small table and two chairs were placed in the room. There was a bell to call the Porter’s room and an electric fan affixed there as well.

The Committee of the Royal Ear Hospital occasionally granted permission to medical practitioners to use the Silence Room for their own research purposes. For instance, in 1929, they granted the otologist Dr. Charles Skinner Hallpike (1900-1979), a research scholar from Middlesex Hospital, to use the room free of charge. Hallpike is particularly known for his ground-breaking work on the causes of Meniere’s disease (a disorder that causes episodes of vertigo) and for the Dix-Hallpike test for diagnosing benign positional vertigo (sensation when everything is spinning around you).

The Western Electric 1-A Audiometer in clinical use at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, c.1920s. Western Electric produced only about 25 of these audiometers, which retailed at about $1,500 in 1923. (Central Institute for the Deaf Collection)
The Western Electric 1-A Audiometer in clinical use at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, c.1920s. Western Electric produced only about 25 of these audiometers, which retailed at about $1,500 in 1923. (Central Institute for the Deaf Collection)

The hospital’s 1938 Annual Reports reveals that Kerridge was appointed to research at the Silence Room, then renamed as the “Hearing Aid Clinic,” working alongside Mr. Myles Formby to conduct hearing test on the hospital’s patients. Though the Clinic was initially started on a 6-month trial period, Kerriddge’s work was so beneficial that the hospital Committee decided to let her continue her research work and audiometer tests, extending care to private patients as well. They provided her with two more rooms in the basement, one as a waiting room and the other as an office, as well as the services of Miss W.J. Waddge as an assistant. In 1939, Kerridge viewed 170 cases, and according to the reports, her work among deaf patients was successful in helping many of them to be fitted properly for hearing aids.

Wartime of course, changed the course of things. The clinic was abandoned during World War II, but the hospital still provided hearing tests with the audiometer to test the hearing of patients suffering from “bomb blast.”

NOTES

[1] Nature 146 (august 3, 1940).

Refitting a Hospital during the Great War

During the Great War, several institutions in London were refitted as auxiliary hospitals to treat the wounded servicemen returning from the battlefields. With large numbers of hospital staff heading to the front lines or volunteering for the war effort, some smaller hospitals even refitted their premises to contribute to the war effort.

photo

One such volunteer hospital was the Royal Ear Hospital, formerly the Royal Dispensary for Diseases of the Ear. Located on 42-43 Dean Street, Soho, the hospital provided specialized treatments for aural diseases since its founding in 1816. As practically the entire staff of the institution was depleted by military duties or volunteer service during the Great War, the hospital closed down. In August 1914, the Governing Committee unanimously resolved that the building should be offered to the Red Cross Society and beds temporarily placed at the disposal of the War Office, for the benefit of soldiers suffering from deafness or ear injuries inflicted during the war. The offer was promptly accepted and 20 beds were reserved for the use of the Navy, though a smaller outpatient clinic overseen by the aural surgeon MacLeod Yearsley still operated in London.

An October 1914 report revealed that the committee debated whether the hospital should provide only specialist care:

It occurred to us that we must decide whether we should still require that only ear cases be sent or should admit other than ear cases. We are agreed I think that the administration should be entirely in the hands of the Committee and that if we reopen, all the medical arrangements [should] be left to the Medical Board.

It was decided that the hospital would deal with ear cases that were too complex for the physicians or surgeons to deal with at the Naval Hospitals, but also welcome general injuries if needed so by the Admiralty.

Yet, apparently there was still plenty of space being unused at the Royal Ear Hospital during the Great War. As I was examining the archives of the hospital, I came across interesting correspondence between the Committee and a Mr. Peter Gallina, proprietor of the Rendezvous Restaurant that occupied space next to the hospital.  The Franco-Italian restaurant was praised for its clean kitchen, economic cookery, and tasteful interior, and became one of the “landmarks” of Dean Street, catering up to 200 people.[1]

A letter dated 15 March 1915 from Gallina reveals that there some vacant rooms under the children’s ward of the hospital, and that Gallina inquired whether the Committee was willing to accept an offer or £50/annum plus rates and taxes for the use of these rooms for the purposes of storage and cellarage, possibly for a lease up to 21 years. A letter by Allan Collard, one of the Committee members and presumably their lawyer, indicates that the Committee was uncomfortable with the offer but found it difficult to ignore the financial benefits that could serve the institution. Collard’s letter reveals that he did

not regard the offer of £50 per annum for the two vacant floors of the rear of the hospital as particularly good. It would be much more tempting of he paid a premium of say £100. Even in that case it would be prudent for the hospital to insist upon payment of the rent in advance annually.

If Mr. Galilna were to use the premises solely for the purposes of storage and cellarage and not as lavatories for his staff, a former objection to his proposed tenancy would be eliminated…I think it would be quite easy for Mr. Gallina to have an opening cut in the party wall which separates the back of his restaurant from the room under your Children’s ward.

The Committee decided to decline the offer on the recommendation of Collard and Mr. G.H. Paine, another of the Committee members.

However, meeting records of the Royal Ear Hospital Committee of Management dated to March 1921 reveals that the Committee reconsidered the offer. They unanimously agreed to recommend that the proprietors of the Rendezvous Restaurant be offered two rooms at the rear of the hospital for a tenancy of one year, and such tenancy thereafter subject to termination by either party at 6 months’ notice, for a yearly rental of £150. The proprietors renegotiated the offer for storage purposes on a 7 year lease terminable at the end of three or five years at the option of the hospital.

Minutes from the January 1922 meeting outline that

The Clerk reported that no reply had been received from the Rendezvous Restaurant regarding the letting of the rooms at the rear of the Hospital. It was suggested by Mr. Lake that if the one room were turned into a ward, which had been the original scheme, it would be of the greatest service. Mr. Pain produced the original plans that had been draw up relating to that proposal…

Discussions continued on with the Committee, largely due with heavy costs associated with renovating the rear rooms into wards. They kept tabling the discussions to analyzing the cost-benefit ration of renovations, the amount of financial support, as well as for an analysis of waiting lists of patients. Changes recommended including another ward for isolation cases, a lavatory and bathroom strictly for the House Surgeon, and the addition of extra baths. Minor renovations were made, including the addition of four extra beds, and a makeshift waiting room with a curtain for the Sister-in-Charge. No major renovations were made: in 1920, it was announced that Mr. Geoffrey Duveen, supporter of the hospital and once on the Governing committee, donated £50,000 to build a new building for hospital on a piece of land purchased on Huntley Street.

NOTES

[1] Judith Walkowitz, Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London (University Press, 2012), 101-2.

Photo Essay: Vesalius at 500

Earlier this week I finally found the time to check out the exhibit, Vesalius at 500 at Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library in Toronto, curated by Philip Oldfield. The exhibit chronicles the history of anatomy and anatomical illustrations prior to, and following, the anatomist Andreas Vesalius’ (1514-1564) publication of De humani corporis fabrica (The Fabric of the Human Body), which was first published in 1543. De Fabrica exemplifies the perfect marriage between art and anatomy, between text and illustration. It is enormously detailed, brilliantly and profusely illustrated and helped to spearhead the new method for anatomical studies in which the anatomist combined the roles of dissector and instructor. Moreover, the book set the standard for all future publications of anatomical illustrations.

With de Fabrica, Vesalius introduced a number of important changes in the study of anatomy, including the notion that students must not depend their learning from authoritative textbooks, or even their teachers. Rather, Vesalius advocated the humanist doctrine to see for oneself: students should see and understand anatomy by looking and investigating the bodies themselves. Truth could be found under the skin, not in the books. While de Fabrica did not outline any shattering discoveries, Vesalius did correct 200 previously unquestioned theories, many of them from the Greek surgeon Galen’s works, which significantly relied on animal cadavers for anatomical studies. Other anatomists had previously criticized isolated pieces of Galenic anatomical doctrine, but de Fabrica was the first publication to systematically demonstrate how Galenic anatomy was mistaken.

As you can see below, de Fabrica is noteworthy for its illustrations, which were drawn by the Dutch artist Jan Stephan van Calcar (1499-1546). Vesalius used these technically accurate drawings of the dissected body to incorporate realism and reveal the process of dissection. De Fabrica thus laid the groundwork for observation-based anatomy, emphasizing anatomical statements could only be revealed by examining human cadavers first hand.

Please excuse the poor quality of some of the photos; I was not allowed to use my flash camera.

Ves1

Ves2

In the second edition of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Basel: J. Oporinus, 1555), the entire text was reset, with more space between lines and illustration; passages were deleted or amended. Most of the changes were stylistic. This is a copy of an extensively annotated second edition with Vesalius’ notes, revealing that Vesalius intended to publish a third edition that never came to pass.
In the second edition of De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Basel: J. Oporinus, 1555), the entire text was reset, with more space between lines and illustration; passages were deleted or amended. Most of the changes were stylistic. This is a copy of an extensively annotated second edition with Vesalius’ notes, revealing that Vesalius intended to publish a third edition that never came to pass.

Ves4

The standing book, featuring "Adam & Eve" is the Epitome, which was published as a condensed version of de Fabrica and intended for students. It cost one-sixth of the price and consisted of 12 folio leaves. Most of the illustrations here are reproduced from Fabrica, but some new ones are added for the purposes of instruction, including “Adam and Eve."
The standing book, featuring “Adam & Eve” is the Epitome, which was published as a condensed version of de Fabrica and intended for students. It cost one-sixth of the price and consisted of 12 folio leaves. Most of the illustrations here are reproduced from Fabrica, but some new ones are added for the purposes of instruction, including “Adam and Eve.”
When Vesalius sent his manuscript and woodblocks of illustration to his printer Johannes Oporinus, he attached a letter with specific instructions for printing. The letter included descriptions on how to align the text and illustrations. As well, Vesalius asked Oporinus to forbid anyone from printing any of the illustrations without his consent.  This book is the first unauthorized reproductions of the plates of Fabrica: Thomas Geminus, an engraver and printer from Flanders, who produced Compendiosa totius anatomie delineation (London: John Herford, 1545) under the command of King Henry VIII of England who wanted to improve the state of surgery. The Compendiosa was the first English book to have an engraved title page. In 1553, Geminus produced an English version for surgeons who did not know Latin; the English version was re-issued in 1559 with an engraving of the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth.
When Vesalius sent his manuscript and woodblocks of illustration to his printer Johannes Oporinus, he attached a letter with specific instructions for printing. The letter included descriptions on how to align the text and illustrations. As well, Vesalius asked Oporinus to forbid anyone from printing any of the illustrations without his consent.
This book is the first unauthorized reproductions of the plates of Fabrica: Thomas Geminus, an engraver and printer from Flanders, who produced Compendiosa totius anatomie delineation (London: John Herford, 1545) under the command of King Henry VIII of England who wanted to improve the state of surgery. The Compendiosa was the first English book to have an engraved title page. In 1553, Geminus produced an English version for surgeons who did not know Latin; the English version was re-issued in 1559 with an engraving of the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth.
Another plagiarism: Juan de Valverde de Amusco, Anatomia del corpo humano (Rome: Ant. Salmanca & Antonio Lafreri, 1560).
Another plagiarism: Juan de Valverde de Amusco, Anatomia del corpo humano (Rome: Ant. Salmanca & Antonio Lafreri, 1560).

The exhibit continued downstairs, but there was a class present. Alas, I didn’t get a chance to take a look at the second part of the exhibit. Go check out the exhibit when you can–it closes August 29.

You can see more illustrations from de Fabrica here.