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Victorian Medicine Couldn't Save Franklin

This old medicine chest was found near a boat abandoned by men from the Franklin Expedition. The men had left their ice-bound ships and were trying to walk to safety.

The chest contains the powders and pills that were used to treat sick or injured sailors, but the medical knowledge of the day did little to protect John Franklin and his men from scurvy (caused by the lack of essential vitamins), lead poisoning (from food cans soldered with lead) and food poisoning (from improperly prepared canned food).

These crude "cures" were as different from modern medicine as were the rolls of those giving medical treatment.

There was a great difference between doctors and surgeons in the nineteenth century. Surgeons were considered medical mechanics - they sawed off limbs (often because of frostbite), splinted broken bones, and bound up wounds. These were things that the more highly educated doctors did not do.

Doctors administered drugs (lots of drugs), and were addressed as "doctor". Surgeons were dismissed as merely "mister".

MORE...
Arctic: Library and Links
Franklin Expedition: Library and Links
Library: Exploration
Arctic Maps & Weather Reports


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