Cullen

The Consultation Letters of Dr William Cullen (1710-1790) at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

 

[ID:195] From: Dr William Cullen (Professor Cullen) / To: Dr John Gilchrist (of Speddoch) / Regarding: Mr Gilbert Gordon (Collector Gordon; of Halleaths and Lochmaben) (Patient) / 10 September 1781 / (Outgoing)

Reply to John Gilchrist, giving advice for Mr Gordon of Halleaths, who has visited Cullen and Bell in person. Cullen has also handed Gordon some directions in person. Gordon is suffering from compression of the spinal cord, with paralytic and continence problems. Cullen recommends the use of electricity, and mentions Jallabert's pioneering work in this field in Geneva.

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Metadata

FieldData
DOC ID 195
RCPE Catalogue Number CUL/1/1/14/81
Main Language English
Document Direction Outgoing
Date10 September 1781
Annotation None
TypeMachine copy
Enclosure(s) No enclosure(s)
Autopsy No
Recipe No
Regimen No
Letter of Introduction No
Case Note No
Summary Reply to John Gilchrist, giving advice for Mr Gordon of Halleaths, who has visited Cullen and Bell in person. Cullen has also handed Gordon some directions in person. Gordon is suffering from compression of the spinal cord, with paralytic and continence problems. Cullen recommends the use of electricity, and mentions Jallabert's pioneering work in this field in Geneva.
Manuscript Incomplete? No
Evidence of Commercial Posting No

Case

Cases that this document belongs to:

Case ID Description Num Docs
[Case ID:1354]
Case of Mr Gordon, who obtains an electrical machine to treat the pain and weakness in his lower back and stomach region, a condition considered almost paralytic by his local physician Dr John Gilchrist.
7


People linked to this document

Person IDRole in documentPerson
[PERS ID:1]AuthorDr William Cullen (Professor Cullen)
[PERS ID:115]AddresseeDr John Gilchrist (of Speddoch)
[PERS ID:168]PatientMr Gilbert Gordon (Collector Gordon; of Halleaths and Lochmaben)
[PERS ID:13]Patient's Physician / Surgeon / ApothecaryMr Benjamin Bell
[PERS ID:115]Patient's Physician / Surgeon / ApothecaryDr John Gilchrist (of Speddoch)
[PERS ID:1]Patient's Physician / Surgeon / ApothecaryDr William Cullen (Professor Cullen)
[PERS ID:481]OtherProfessor Jean Jallabert

Places linked to this document

Role in document Specific Place Settlements / Areas Region Country Global Region Confidence
Place of Writing Cullen's House / Mint Close Edinburgh Edinburgh and East Scotland Europe certain
Destination of Letter Dumfries Borders Scotland Europe inferred
Mentioned / Other Geneva (Geneve) Switzerland Switzerland Europe certain

Normalized Text

[Page 1]
Mr Gordon of Halleaths
Dear Dr.


Your patient Mr Gordon of Halleaths [has]
now been with us long enough to let us know as mu[ch as we]
can of the nature of his disease and to make some {illeg}
towards the cure of it. I am therefore clear that there {illeg}
for his staying longer here but in going away he has {illeg}
that I should give you my own and Mr Bells opin[ion] {illeg}
Case and of the best manner of treating it, and tho {illeg}
necessary I shall comply with his request.


I think it is pretty evident that his ailment [depends]
upon some affection some compression rather than {illeg}
of the lower part of the medulla spinalis. What {illeg}
the nature of this compression I find it difficult to {illeg}
therefore our trials to remove it must be general or {illeg}
at random. It appears that before he came here {illeg}
of stimulus had been tried and with so little [success?]
there was no temptation to renew the trials. I found [that]
the only stimulus untried was Electricity and I thought {illeg}
was very good reason to try this both as the most {illeg}
stimulus to the nervous system and as a powerfull {illeg}



[Page 2]

[I may?] so speak, to the sanguiferous. We have accordingly set
{illeg} is but the imperfection of our apparatus and especially
{illeg} [moi]sture of the weather made us lose a great deal of time
{illeg} I am of opinion that it is only by a long continuance
[of the] Electricity
that much benefit is to be expected I am clear
{illeg} trials that may be decisive have yet been made and
{illeg} that they ought still ↑to↑ be continued for a long time to
{illeg}. he is now provided with a tolerable apparatus and his
{illeg} sufficiently acquainted with the management of it
[so that?] it may be continued and I advise it to be continued
[for a?] month to come without interruption. I would have it
{illeg} to the lower extremities, but applied to the different
[parts of?] these at first in moderate shocks many times re¬
[peated] but afterwards in stronger shocks in fewer number
.
[From the] trials made here there is some appearance of amend¬
[ment] he retains his urine longer and the sphincter Ani
[does not?] yield so quickly as before and so far as can be judged
{illeg} {illeg}ll differences he moves his limbs better. One re¬
markable change to be observed is ↑his↑ having within these eight


[Page 3]

days had natural stools and once in that time a little
looseness
. Whether this last has ↑been↑ owing to any indigestion
is uncertain or whether his natural stools have been
owing to the Guiacum I am to mention presently is also
uncertain but I think it possible that both may have been
owing to the Electricity as I have known such effects from
it in other cases and in the first trials of medical Electri¬
city
which were made by Jallabert of Geneva 1 a violent
diarrhea
was produced by it. Let this therefore be attended
to both for general Information and for the more proper
conduct of Mr Gordon himself. I have nothing further
to say on the subject of his Electricity but this that if he
goes on to recover under the use of it he should continue
in the use of it pretty constantly for even months to come
without tampering with any other remedy but if in a
month hence his recovery shall not be considerable I
would lay it aside for a week to observe what difference
that occasions and if it does ↑not↑ make any one way or other
I would lay it aside for a longer time and try the effects
of warm bathing and to ascertain these properly I would


[Page 4]

try this remedy at least at first separately from the Elec¬
tricity
. The warm bathing may be tried by immersion in
water a little warmer than the human heat and at least
this after one or two trials and this will be the safer if the
immersion no further ↑higher↑ than to the waist. This may be tried
two or three times a week but I must say that I do not ex¬
pect so much from immersion as I do from a douche without
any immersion at least before it. While Mr Gordon is sup¬
ported standing but bended forwards in a tub, let pretty warm
water be poured from some height upon his loins and haunches
Every family in the country is provided with a watering can
and taking off the arrosoir 2 you have a pipe to pour from
commonly of a sufficient size and the height from which it
is poured may be gradually increased to what may be thought
necessary. This practice repeated two or three weeks times
a week will soon shew what is to be expected from it and
whether to be continued with or without Electricity your
observation & good judgement will determine.


These are ↑the↑ remedies which I think we must depend
upon but at same time I woud not entirely renounce



[Page 5]

some internal medicine and what seems the most pro¬
mising to me is the Gum Guaiac both as a stimulus to the
whole system
and a stimulus to the Intestines. He has accor¬
dingly been under the use of this for some time here and the
formula employed will be inclosed here.


When Mr Gordon needed a laxative medicine we em¬
ployed the Oleum ricini according to a formula, also here
inclosed.


Tho no great nicety is required some attention may be
proper to be given to his diet. To this purpose some directions
have been put into Mr Gordons own hands and as you
will have access to these I think upon a double account it
is not necessary to say any thing of them here.


It is almost as superfluous to say that when Mr Gordon
is in the country he should be in the fresh air in his carriage
as often as his other remedies and the state of the weather
will allow of. Friction also is a remedy still to be
employed
and particularly when the douche is employed
it may be proper with a coarse towel dipt in very warm
water to rub down
his limbs very diligently.




[Page 6]


If I did not think ↑it↑ incumbent on me without regard to
you to say every thing that might be proper to many others
I should not say that nothing can be more hurtfull to Mr
G. than cold coming at the lower extremities and therefore
at all times but particularly when he is in a carriage pre¬
cautions are to be taken against it.


I hope I have now said every thing I can recollect as
any ways necessary and have only to add that whenever
you can think that I can in any way be farther usefull
you may freely command me who am always fond of
your correspondence and am always most entirely and
sincerely

Dear John Yours &c ––––
William Cullen
Edinburgh 10th September
1781

Notes:

1: The Swiss physician Jean Jallabert (1712-1768), who published his Experiences sur L'Electricité in 1748.

2: The "rose" or "sprinkler" attachment of a watering can.

Diplomatic Text

[Page 1]
Mr Gordon of Halleaths
Dear Dr.


Your patient Mr Gordon of Halleaths [has]
now been with us long enough to let us know as mu[ch as we]
can of the nature of his disease and to make some {illeg}
towards the cure of it. I am therefore clear that there {illeg}
for his staying longer here but in going away he has {illeg}
that I should give you my own and Mr Bells opin[ion] {illeg}
Case and of the best manner of treating it, and tho {illeg}
necessary I shall comply with his request.


I think it is pretty evident that his ailment [depends]
upon some affection some compression rather than {illeg}
of the lower part of the medulla spinalis. What {illeg}
the nature of this compression I find it difficult to {illeg}
therefore our trials to remove it must be general or {illeg}
at random. It appears that before he came here {illeg}
of stimulus had been tried and with so little [success?]
there was no temptation to renew the trials. I found [that]
the only stimulus untried was Electricity and I thought {illeg}
was very good reason to try this both as the most {illeg}
stimulus to the nervous system and as a powerfull {illeg}



[Page 2]

[I may?] so speak, to the sanguiferous. We have accordingly set
{illeg} is but the imperfection of our apparatus and especially
{illeg} [moi]sture of the weather made us lose a great deal of time
{illeg} I am of opinion that it is only by a long continuance
[of the] Electricity
that much benefit is to be expected I am clear
{illeg} trials that may be decisive have yet been made and
{illeg} that they ought still ↑to↑ be continued for a long time to
{illeg}. he is now provided with a tolerable apparatus and his
{illeg} sufficiently acquainted with the management of it
[so that?] it may be continued and I advise it to be continued
[for a?] month to come without interruption. I would have it
{illeg} to the lower extremities, but applied to the different
[parts of?] these at first in moderate shocks many times re¬
[peated] but afterwards in stronger shocks in fewer number
.
[From the] trials made here there is some appearance of amend¬
[ment] he retains his urine longer and the sphincter Ani
[does not?] yield so quickly as before and so far as can be judged
{illeg} {illeg}ll differences he moves his limbs better. One re¬
markable change to be observed is ↑his↑ having within these eight


[Page 3]

days had natural stools and once in that time a little
looseness
. Whether this last has ↑been↑ owing to any indigestion
is uncertain or whether his natural stools have been
owing to the Guiacum I am to mention presently is also
uncertain but I think it possible that both may have been
owing to the Electricity as I have known such effects from
it in other cases and in the first trials of medical Electri¬
city
which were made by Jallabert of Geneva 1 a violent
diarrhea
was produced by it. Let this therefore be attended
to both for general Information and for the more proper
conduct of Mr Gordon himself. I have nothing further
to say on the subject of his Electricity but this that if he
goes on to recover under the use of it he should continue
in the use of it pretty constantly for even months to come
without tampering with any other remedy but if in a
month hence his recovery shall not be considerable I
would lay it aside for a week to observe what difference
that occasions and if it does ↑not↑ make any one way or other
I would lay it aside for a longer time and try the effects
of warm bathing and to ascertain these properly I would


[Page 4]

try this remedy at least at first separately from the Elec¬
tricity
. The warm bathing may be tried by immersion in
water a little warmer than the human heat and at least
this after one or two trials and this will be the safer if the
immersion no further ↑higher↑ than to the waist. This may be tried
two or three times a week but I must say that I do not ex¬
pect so much from immersion as I do from a douche without
any immersion at least before it. While Mr Gordon is sup¬
ported standing but bended forwards in a tub, let pretty warm
water be poured from some height upon his loins and haunches
Every family in the country is provided with a watering can
and taking off the arrosoir 2 you have a pipe to pour from
commonly of a sufficient size and the height from which it
is poured may be gradually increased to what may be thought
necessary. This practice repeated two or three weeks times
a week will soon shew what is to be expected from it and
whether to be continued with or without Electricity your
observation & good judgement will determine.


These are ↑the↑ remedies which I think we must depend
upon but at same time I woud not entirely renounce



[Page 5]

some internal medicine and what seems the most pro¬
mising to me is the Gum Guaiac both as a stimulus to the
whole system
and a stimulus to the Intestines. He has accor¬
dingly been under the use of this for some time here and the
formula employed will be inclosed here.


When Mr Gordon needed a laxative medicine we em¬
ployed the Oleum ricini according to a formula, also here
inclosed.


Tho no great nicety is required some attention may be
proper to be given to his diet. To this purpose some directions
have been put into Mr Gordons own hands and as you
will have access to these I think upon a double account it
is not necessary to say any thing of them here.


It is almost as superfluous to say that when Mr Gordon
is in the country he should be in the fresh air in his carriage
as often as his other remedies and the state of the weather
will allow of. Friction also is a remedy still to be
employed
and particularly when the douche is employed
it may be proper with a coarse towel dipt in very warm
water to rub down
his limbs very diligently.




[Page 6]


If I did not think ↑it↑ incumbent on me without regard to
you to say every thing that might be proper to many others
I should not say that nothing can be more hurtfull to Mr
G. than cold coming at the lower extremities and therefore
at all times but particularly when he is in a carriage pre¬
cautions are to be taken against it.


I hope I have now said every thing I can recollect as
any ways necessary and have only to add that whenever
you can think that I can in any way be farther usefull
you may freely command me who am always fond of
your correspondence and am always most entirely and
sincerely

Dear John Yours &c ––––
William Cullen
Edinr. 10th Septr.
1781

Notes:

1: The Swiss physician Jean Jallabert (1712-1768), who published his Experiences sur L'Electricité in 1748.

2: The "rose" or "sprinkler" attachment of a watering can.

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