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Title: Medical aspects of the expeditions of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration (1895-1922)
Author: Guly, Henry Raymond
ISNI:       0000 0004 5372 9022
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis describes medical aspects of the expeditions of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration (1895-1922). It is divided into three sections. Section 1 describes the drugs and medical equipment taken to the Antarctic by these expeditions. There is an introductory discussion followed by papers on ophthalmic drugs, injections, inhalations and suppositories, oral drugs and topical preparations. Sledging medical cases are considered separately. Brandy was often used as a medicine and the medical uses of alcohol are described. Some expeditions took what were described as “medical comforts”. This term was sometimes used as a euphemism for alcoholic beverages but, in fact, encompassed a wide range of foods for invalids. Burroughs Wellcome and Co. supplied many of the expeditions with drugs and their medical chests. They used the expedition link in their advertising and the relationship between the expeditions and drug companies is described. Section 2 describes some of the medical problems encountered. The most serious problems were scurvy and a condition often called “polar anaemia”, which seems to be the same as a condition known at the time as “ship beriberi” and what is now described as “wet beriberi”. The controversy as to whether Captain Scott and his colleagues died of scurvy is also discussed. Other problems included frostbite and snow blindness. At least 11 general anaesthetics were given, including two for amputation of frostbitten toes. Psychological problems were common and there was some serious psychiatric illness including alcohol abuse. Section 3 describes the doctors and some of the research that they carried out. The most common research done by doctors was bacteriological. Most doctors collected biological data on the explorers including weights and haemoglobin measurements. This was largely for health monitoring but one doctor pursued physiological research. Three doctors and a medical student studied geology.
Supervisor: Jackson, Mark ; Moore, Martin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Antarctic ; Exploration ; Heroic age ; Medical history ; Scurvy ; beriberi ; hypothermia ; Frostbite ; Alcohol ; snow blindness