Monday, January 27, 2020

Dr. William Beaumont sticking random food into St. Martin 's stomach wound

I read about Dr. Beaumont in the 5th grade in Barnard, John D. The Macmillan Science Series. New York: Macmillan, 1962. Print.

I was recently retriggered over the Beaumont story when I put together a twitter thread of Nobel Laureate Joseph Erlanger who gave a lecture on the frontier US Army doctor

From the Macmillan article:

Digesting Your Food

Late in the nineteenth century, scientists knew very little about what happens in the body of a living person.  Operations were not common, because they were nearly always fatal. Direct observations of what goes on inside the body were rare until quite recently.

In 1822 a strange thing happened. A trapper named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in his left side.  He was brought to William Beaumont, a doctor in the United States Army. The doctor patched the wound as best he could, but it never closed properly.  Instead, the wall of the stomach healed by growing to the skin and muscles of the body wall. This left a hole in the left side of St. Martin's body that led to the inside of his stomach.  The hole provided Dr. Beaumont with a "window" to observe and study the workings of the stomach.  St. Martin co-operated with Dr. Beaumont, and the doctor was able to make many observations over a period of eleven years.

Dr. Beaumont saw that the stomach gives off a fluid.  He put some of this fluid on meat and found that the meat was partly digested.  He also saw the stomach move and churn when food was in it.  He did many experiments and learned much about the stomach.  Dr. Beaumont's experiments led the way for other scientists to make many more discoveries about how the stomach digests food.  What you will read here about the digestive system is the result of the

work of hundreds of scientists over many years. But there is still much to be learned.

Look at the X-ray picture of your digestive system (dih-JESS-tiv). When you swallow some food, it goes down the gullet (GUL-it) into the stomach (STUM-ik) and then into the small intestine (in-TESS-tin).  Whatever is not digested leaves the body by way of the large intestine.  You may think that the food makes a rather quick trip through your body. But actually scientists have learned that the process of digesting food and getting rid of wastes takes about twenty-four hours.

What has to be done to the food so that your body can use it?  You know that your body is made up of billions of cells.  All of these cells need food to stay alive.  How do all these cells get food?  Blood carries food to the cells.  But it cannot carry a piece of hamburger or a piece of potato or celery.  Can you tell why?  All of the solid foods that you eat have to be changed.  Changing them so that they can be carried to your cells is the work of the digestive system.

The work of breaking down your food begins in your mouth.  As you chew, your food is mixed with saliva (suh-LY-vuh).  In your mouth are tube ....



Experiment I.

August 1, 1825. At 12 o'clock, M., I introduced through the perforation, into the stomach, the following articles of diet, suspended by a silk string, and fastened at proper distances, so as to pass in without pain -- viz. :-- a piece of high seasoned a la mode beef; a piece of raw, salted, fat pork; a piece of raw, salted, lean beef; a piece of boiled, salted beef; a piece of stale bread; and a bunch of raw, sliced cabbage; each piece weighing about two drachms; the lad continuing his usual employment about the house.

At 1 o'clock, P.M., withdrew and examined them -- found the cabbage and bread about half digested : the pieces of meat unchanged.  Returned them into the stomach.

At 2 o'clock, P.M., withdrew them again -- found the cabbage, bread, pork, and boiled beef, all cleanly digested, + and gone from the string; the other pieces of

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