Monday, June 29, 2015

Regency Medicine

By Jillian Kent

I love researching my Regency era novels. For those of you who haven't ventured into this kind of research yet be warned: it's addictive. Of course you have to love history or it might not have the same effect on you.:) I'm a counselor by day and have worked in the mental health field for years so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm fascinated by books like: Undertaker of the Mind: John Monro and Mad-Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England (Medicine and Society) by Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull and Customers and Patrons of the Mad-Trade: The Management of Lunacy in Eighteenth-Century London, With the Complete Text of John Monro's 1766 Case Book by Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull.

I always felt sorry for King George III. Can you imagine losing your mind and your job, let alone the ability to reign as king because of a medical disease that no one even knew existed, let alone had any idea how to treat?

Roy Porter wrote my kind of books: Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine, The Cambridge History of Medicine, Quacks: Fakers & Charlatans in Medicine (Revealing History),Patients and Practitioners: Lay Perceptions of Medicine in Pre-industrial Society (Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine), Medical Fringe & Medical Orthodoxy, 1750-1850 (Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine). If you've never heard of him just go to and look up the volumes of books this guy wrote. I think he wrote something like 80 before he died at age 55 not long ago. Porter is an incredible resource.


While researching information about the origins of the stethoscope I discovered via Porter's book and the internet that the stethoscope was invented in 1816 by Rene Laennec.
Dr. Laennec had been trying to listen to the heart of an obese woman and because it was necessary for him to put his ear to her bare chest he didn't want to be inappropriate, so he rolled up a newspaper and listened to her heart that way and voila it worked well. He could hear the sounds of the heart more clearly and the history of medicine took a new direction: the development of the stethoscope.



I've read that it was Charles Thomas Haden who brought the stethoscope to England. He became a friend of Jane Austen when he attended her father.

Internet resource:

The movie Miss Austen Regrets depicts a jealous Jane Austen silently fuming over the attentions paid by a young doctor to her 22-year-old niece, Fanny Knight. The doctor, Charles Thomas Haden, is portrayed by Jack Huston, with Olivia Williams as Jane and Imogen Poots as Fanny.

Have you ever discovered a historical fact that just blew you away? What historical novel or movie has wowed you lately?


  1. Hi Jillian, you have some mighty interesting reading material. I' came across the stethoscope story during my own research and found it fascinating..

    I recently came across some interesting info about the Civil War. It reportedly rained following 159 major battles and some thought it was due to all that cannon fire. Napoleon was the first to note the phenomena. I live in California and we're going through a terrible drought. I say bring on the cannons!

    1. Hi Margaret,
      Love researching medicine. And your information on the rain following 159 battles is really interesting. I'd never heard that before. Hope you all get needed rain in California. It's been way too long.

  2. What fabulous resources regarding medical history! It always makes me thankful I live in 2015 when I'm looking into the past. Historical novels never cease to "wow" me when I consider the details of lives in the past. It always gives me perspective to face the challenges in my "today."

  3. Hi Steph,
    I agree! As much as I love to write about the past I don't think I'd have lasted long during the Regency era with all the health problems they encountered. Wow, is right!