[ NOTE: There is no additional Editor’s Introduction for this Roses e-publication. ]
E D I T O R ’ S N O T E
The following “History of a Tumor in the Lower Part of the Belly, Related by Mr. Giles ...” is Hans Sloane’s English reissue (published in No. 225 of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London for February 1697) of a French text by Monsieur Giles, renowned Chirurgien-Juré of Saint-Cosme (in the Alsace region of northeastern France), describing a 64-year-old French woman’s bout with colon cancer in 1689–1691.
The woman was not Giles’ patient. Giles was brought in after her death to perform the autopsy, which proved conclusively that she had indeed suffered from colon cancer (her physicians had offered a range of diagnoses, including uterine cancer).
Giles’ relation of the case was first published by the French philosophe and physician Claude Brunet in his Le Progrès de la Médecine, Contenant un Recueil de Aout ce qui s’Observe d’Utile à la Pratique (Paris: L. d’Houry, 1697), from whence Hans Sloane selected it for English translation.
Although Claude Brunet brought out multiple medical titles documenting the “observations des plus fameux médecins, chirurgiens et anatomistes de l’Europe” (Journal de Médecine, Paris: Horthemels, 1686), he is best known today for his “egoist philosophy,” having long been regarded as “the first to draw solipsist conclusions from Cartesian idealism.” But received wisdom concerning the egoist Brunet is now in question. A recent scholarly reappraisal paints Brunet’s radical dualism — “which assumes two separate worlds, the world of consciousness and the external world” — as not really paving the way to solipsism. (Sébastien Charles, “Skepticism and Solipsism in the Eighteenth Century: Revisiting the Egoist Question,” in Skepticism in the Modern Age: Building on the Work of Richard Popkin ..., ed. by José Raimundo Maia Neto, Gianni Paganini, and John Christian Laursen, 2009, 333 and 335)
Hans Sloane (1660–1753) served as first secretary of the Royal Society from 1695, and in this capacity, was tasked with editing and publishing the London Society’s Philosophical Transactions. In all, Sloane translated into English and republished three articles from Brunet’s journal, Le Progrès de la Médecine (Paris, 1695–1709), two of which documented the surgical treatment of diseased growths in female patients who had been autopsied by Monsieur Giles.
Presumably, Sloane — a physician with an “immensely successful” Bloomsbury practice, “his patients including many of the most prestigious figures of the day” (Arthur MacGregor, “Sloane, Sir Hans, baronet [1660–1753], physician and collector,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn., 2004, n. pag.) — felt that Giles’ post-mortem examination findings had the potential to improve global “best practices” when it came to treating women’s cancers.
as originally published in the
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
for February 1697 N.S., Vol. 19, No. 225, pp. 402–404
The History of a Tumor in the lower part of the Belly, Related by Mr. Giles, Sworn Surgeon at St. Come; being the Second Art. of the Second Journal of Brunet’s Progress de la Medicine.
by Monsieur Giles and Claude Brunet
(Englished and edited by Hans Sloane, M.D.)
In the Year 1689, Madam ----- about Sixty four Years old, had a Tumor in the lower Region of the Belly, hard, round, and as big as a Ball, such as the Boys play with. They mov’d this Globe in the same manner as they do the Matrix, when it is big with a Child, of Six or Seven Months old; no Accidents like a Fever, Pain, Vomiting, loss of Blood, Fluoralbus, &c. accompanied this Tumor, but a constant voiding of Urine; many Physicians, both of Paris and the Provinces were consulted at different times; they search’d the Patient, and agreed at length that it was a scirrhus, some plac’d it in the Epiploon, others in the Mesentery, and others fastned it to the Matrix. In view of this, all possible means were imployed to soften and discuss it; they gave her Emetiques, strong Purgatives, Diureticks; they applied Emollients and Resolvents, but all to no purpose. Being wearied with so many Remedies, she went in her Coach to take the Air at Vincennes; after her return she had an Inclination to go to Stool, and filled a Bason with gross Excrements, a little black, and not very stinking, this she did a second time; and the Lady found her self immediately relieved, her swelling disappeared, her Urine stopt; and to conclude, in a few Hours she was perfectly well.
A Year after that, she fell into an Apoplexy, out of which she Recovered by Emetiques and Purgations, nothing as yet did appear in the lower Region of her Belly; but in 1691. the Tumor shewed it self in the same place, of the same consistence, bigness, and roundness, with an involuntary efflux of her Urine; to be short, with the same marks as before: Measures were taken by what had past, for the time to come; they Purged her often and strongly; and it’s remarkable, that all Clysters and Purges did very strongly their Office; they gave her also Vomitives and Deobstruents; she Bathed, and all possible care was taken, to make Nature do again what she had before done with so good Success; but all was in vain, for nothing mov’d, this second Tumor augmented daily, and Two Years after its first appearing the party dyed.
I was called to open the Body; having divided and laid aside the common Covers, and the Muscles of the lower Belly, this great and round Tumor of which I have spoke appeared; it was the Caecum dilated which made this Swelling; its Membranes were outwardly smooth, and of the same Colour with the Intestines, without alteration, and full of Vessels of all sorts. Before I cut it, I followed the Intestines, and remark’d that the Ileon did lye along the Tumor being flat against it, and returned to join the Colon as is usual; so the Excrements had the liberty to pass from the Ileon to the Colon, without entring into the Tumor, which after this I opened; I found about Three Chopins (or Quarts) of greyish Matter, without smell, and of a Consistence rather liquid then thick; after that I search’d for a Communication it might have with the Guts, but discovered neither hole, nor any appearance it might have; the interior membranes were very beautiful, and all the parts of the Swelling, as well as of the neighbouring Organs, appeared very sound.
Though I perceived no Communication this Tumor had with the Ileon, yet some must have been in the beginning of this Tumor, by which it discharged its gross Excrements; but after this Evacuation I believe that this opening was stopt, and that the sides of this great bag, which had come close together, by the going out of this gross Matter, did by degrees stretch and open themselves to receive this Heterogeneous Stuff, which I found there, produc’d either by the Glands of these parts, or some lymphatick Vessels which I saw there, or some Fluid Bodies exprest from the Chyle or other Humors. The Compression which the Tumor made on the Bladder, made the Urine run out as fast as it came in; its Sphincter not being able to resist the violence of this load.
Perhaps the Patient might have been Cured, if they had opened the Tumor when it appeared the second time; but the way by which she was relieved the first time, gave ground to fear they might open the Intestines in this Operation, and they were always in hopes of such an Evacuation, as they had the first time.
“The Original of a Polypus Discover’d, by Mr. Giles ...,” trans. and ed. by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 226, March 1697)
“A Letter from Mr Jonathan Kay, Chyrurgeon in Newport, Shropshire, Concerning a Strange Cancer, of which His Father Dyed,” ed. by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 277, January–February 1702)
“An Observation Concerning a Very Odd Kind of Dropsy, or Swellings in One of the Ovaries of a Woman,” by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 252, May 1699)
4-part series, “An Account of a China Cabinet, Filled with Several Instruments, Fruits, &c. Used in China,” by H. Sloane (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Nos. 246, 247, 249 and 250, November–December 1698 and February–March 1699)
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