50 & 100 years ago

50 Years Ago

Can experiments with bacteria or strips of gut help to explain the behaviour of the drug addict? Are drugs sought because of their special pharmacological properties, or as a form of social currency? … Such were the questions tackled at a symposium on the scientific basis of drug dependence … Sir Aubrey Lewis reviewed past attitudes and terminology. Although “physical” dependence could be reliably defined, “psychological” dependence was a dangerously woolly concept. Thus psychogenic polydipsia might be cited to prove water a drug of dependence. He underlined the need for a sense of proportion by quoting the scathing denunciation, by two authorities a generation ago, of the danger to mankind of that menacing beverage, tea.

From Nature 27 April 1968

100 Years Ago

A disease known as “trench fever” has been very frequent among the troops on the Western front. It is characterised by recurrent attacks of fever of short duration … and followed generally by acute pain in the shins and frequently by dilatation and disordered action of the heart. A committee … was instituted to investigate the causation and spread of the disease … various circumstances implicated the louse, and experiments were made on this hypothesis. Lice were allowed to feed on patients in all stages of the disease, and were then allowed to bite healthy volunteers; the result was negative. Next the excreta of lice similarly infected were applied to a scarified area of skin, and in from six to ten days after, all the five volunteers … developed trench fever. From these experiments it is evident that the bite alone of the louse does not produce trench fever, but that when the excreta of infected lice are scratched into the skin the disease is produced.

From Nature 25 April 1918

Nature 556, 443 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-04912-9

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