All posts by Phil Morrell

GIROLAMO CARDANORENAISSANCE PHYSICIAN —  23rd SEPTEMBER 2019 STEVE BRENNAN

Steve Brennan is a retired chest phys­i­cian who worked for many years at the Northern General Hospital and came this morn­ing to talk to us about the life of Gerolamo Cardano who lived in 16th cen­tury Italy and who has been described at vari­ous times as a phys­i­cian, chem­ist, astro­lo­ger, astro­nomer, philo­sopher, math­em­atician, bio­lo­gist and gam­bler. He cer­tainly had a busy life.

He was born ille­git­im­ate in Pavia in 1501. His father was a lawyer who also had con­sid­er­able expert­ise in math­em­at­ics and was an asso­ci­ate of Leonardo da Vinci. He ini­tially assisted his father in his legal prac­tice but left to read medi­cine at Pavia University much to his father’s dis­ap­proval.

When war broke out the uni­ver­sity was forced to close so Cardano moved to Padua University where he proved to be an excep­tional but out­spoken and unpop­u­lar stu­dent. He was gran­ted his doc­tor­ate in medi­cine at the third attempt in 1525 and applied for a pos­i­tion in the Milan College of Physicians but was turned down because he was ille­git­im­ate. He then moved to Sacco and set him­self up in a small prac­tice without any great suc­cess and had to rely on gambling to provide his income. In 1531 he mar­ried Lucia Bandarini and soon after moved to Milan and applied to the College of Physicians but was rejec­ted again. This was a des­per­ate period in his life he suffered from mal­aria, des­ti­tute and had to enter the poor­house.

Cardano even­tu­ally obtained a post as lec­turer in math­em­at­ics in Milan, was able to treat patients in his spare time and man­aged to estab­lish a good repu­ta­tion par­tic­u­larly amongst the nobil­ity. He applied once more for entry to the Milan College without suc­cess prob­ably due to his pub­lish­ing a book entitled “The Differing Opinions of Physicians” attack­ing the med­ical estab­lish­ment and high­light­ing no less than 76 errors com­monly made by doc­tors. However, the book was pop­u­lar with the public and fol­low­ing pres­sure from his admirers in 1539 he was accep­ted by the College. Over the next six years Cardano immersed him­self in the study of math­em­at­ics cul­min­at­ing in the pub­lish­ing of an opus which demon­strated the solu­tion of the cubic equa­tion.

Cardano’s fame spread due to the pop­ular­ity of his pub­lished works and his grow­ing repu­ta­tion as a top phys­i­cian. He received sev­eral offers from the crowned heads of Europe but turned them down apart from the Archbishop of St Andrews who suffered from debil­it­at­ing asthma. The best medics in Europe were unsuc­cess­ful in treat­ing him so Cardano, having been offered a huge sum of money, trav­elled to Scotland set­ting off in February 1552. His rem­ed­ies for asthma were suc­cess­ful and many are still rel­ev­ant today.

On return­ing to Italy he was appoin­ted pro­fessor of medi­cine at Pavia University and acquired a port­fo­lio of wealthy cli­ents and celebrity status. However, in 1557 his son Giovanni mar­ried Brandonia di Seroni who was described as worth­less and shame­less. The mar­riage was a dis­aster and Giovanni even­tu­ally poisoned his wife, was tried and executed in 1560 and Cardano was dev­ast­ated.

His repu­ta­tion rap­idly declined and he moved to Bologna as pro­fessor of medi­cine where due to his arrog­ance he was deeply unpop­u­lar.

In 1570 he was jailed for heresy, a result of the inquisition’s activ­it­ies. Archbishop Hamilton inter­ceded on his behalf and he was released in 1571. He decided to move to Rome where he was well received par­tic­u­larly by the Pope who gran­ted him a pen­sion.  He died in September 1576 and was buried in Milan. Remarkably Cardano was cred­ited with inven­tions such as the smoke­less chim­ney, the mul­tiple Archimedes screw, the gimbal com­pass sta­bil­iser and an early ver­sion of the uni­ver­sal joint. This was a fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion about a bril­liant but dif­fi­cult man told with great style and good humour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ANGLO ZULU WARGEORGE CLARK17TH JUNE 2019

This morning’s talk was presen­ted by George Clark a retired anaes­thet­ist and covered the Anglo Zulu con­flict of 1879. The war has been described as an ill-conceived, incom­pet­ently executed and fruit­less cam­paign. 20,000 British troops faced 40,000 Zulus, more than 10,000 Zulus were killed and 2,000 British troops died. Not the British Empire’s finest hour.

The Zulu nation was foun­ded in about 1816 and the first king was called Shaka who instig­ated the buf­falo horns form­a­tion when attack­ing the enemy which proved to be very effect­ive par­tic­u­larly when com­bined with shorter spears and larger shields.

f

By 1872 Cetshwayo kaMpande had become king of the Zulus and in 1873 the king­dom was described as the most polit­ic­ally soph­ist­ic­ated, admin­is­trat­ively integ­rated and mil­it­ar­ily power­ful black state in sub-Saharan Africa. The pop­u­la­tion numbered 250,000 and the army 40,000.

The British Government had neg­li­gible interest in South African ter­rit­or­ies until the dis­cov­ery of dia­monds there in the 1860’s and it became British policy to try to estab­lish a con­fed­er­a­tion of South Africa to include the Boer states and to annexe the Zulu king­dom.

In 1877 Sir Bartle Frere was appoin­ted High Commissioner for Southern Africa to achieve this aim. He decided to instig­ate a con­flict with the Zulus by exag­ger­at­ing recent border incid­ents and issued an ulti­matum to King Cetshwayo which included the dis­band­ing of the Zulu army. When Bartle Frere received no response to his demands a British force under the com­mand of Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand in January 1879 with about 17,000 troops des­pite the fact the British Government had not author­ised any such action.

The ini­tial inva­sion in three columns was largely unop­posed and Chelmsford set up camp with the cent­ral column at Isandlwana but failed to estab­lish proper defens­ive pos­i­tions. Chelmsford decided to split his forces to sup­port a recon­noitring party and left the camp in the charge of Colonel Pulleine. The British force was out­man­oeuvred by the nearly 20,000 strong Zulu army and of the 1,700 troops in camp over 1,300 were killed with about 1,000 Zulus per­ish­ing. Messages sent to Chelmsford implor­ing him to send rein­force­ments were ignored. Of the other British forces, the right flank column advanced as far as Eshowe but was cut off and the left flank retreated on hear­ing of the dis­aster at Isandlwana.

Dugan, William Henry; Siege of Rorke’s Drift; The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/siege-of-rorkes-drift-181818

Meanwhile a small force under Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard (about 100 sol­diers) was gar­risoned at Rorke’s Drift when they came under attack from a force of approx­im­ately 3,000 Zulu. This was the sub­ject of the famous film “Zulu”. Over the next six hours the gar­rison was sub­jec­ted to wave after wave of Zulu attacks which were repelled by gun­fire and bay­on­ets. The enemy tired and without food, even­tu­ally aban­doned their attack after mid­night. Over 600 Zulus were killed com­pared to 15 British dead and 12 wounded. 11 VC’s were awar­ded.

The British Government decided to com­plete the inva­sion of Zululand and sent rein­force­ments over the next two months to help Chelmsford achieve this. He had suc­cesses at Khambula and in the relief of Eshowe. He then moun­ted a second inva­sion with 9,000 infantry and 1,000 cav­alry and cannon. At the battle of Ulundi, Cetshwayo’s army of 20,000 was decis­ively defeated.

Chelmsford was never given a com­mand again and the British Government decided they no longer wanted Zululand annex­ing or form­ing part of a con­fed­er­a­tion. Instead the land was divided into thir­teen chief­doms.

This was a fas­cin­at­ing and detailed talk thor­oughly enjoyed by all.