Dr. John Knox Papers, 1815-1854
| Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Front Page 2006 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
Two manuscripts, 28 February 1815 and 23 September 1854, and manuscript volume, 1845-1846, relate chiefly to the medical practice of John Knox, a physician active in Chester District, South Carolina, during the middle years of the nineteenth century. | Manuscripts Gifts 2006 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
The primary item in this collection is a case book in which Knox recorded accounts of the cases he treated between 28 September 1845 and 13 July 1846. His descriptions are succinct, each adhering to a similar pattern: the patientís name, followed by a diagnosis of the ailment, and a report on the course of treatment.
Knox appears to have had an active practice and numbered among his patients slaves as well as white citizens. Pneumonia and fever com¨prised an overwhelming majority of the cases Knox was called upon to treat, with a steady stream of pneumonia cases throughout the winter of 1845. He was particularly busy during October 1845, with thirty total cases, including twenty-two cases of chills and fever; March 1846, when there were twelve total cases and six cases of pneumonia; and July 1846, with twenty cases of fever. There were also slower periods: December 1845 saw only four new cases noted in the book and January 1846 just three.
On the list of most frequently prescribed medicines were quinine, laudanum, camphor, squills (a herbal curative employed as an expecto¨rant, cardiac stimulant, and diuretic), Doverís powders (a mixture of opium and ipecac), and blue pills (containing mercury). Most of these medicines, or their components, had been in use for centuries and would continue to be widely used until the antibiotic revolution of 1930s. He also made use of the widespread contemporary practices of bleeding, cupping, and blistering. In most cases, Knox employed a combination of remedies in the hope of restoring his patients to health. A representative example is the case of Joseph White, whom Knox treated for fever and nausea beginning on 17 April 1846. Before his treatment concluded, Knox had prescribed bleeding, cupping, blue pills, salts, blistering, squills, and nitre in huckleberry tea. Despite the relative primitiveness of contemporary medical practice, the mortality rate among the patients recorded in this book was surprisingly low, with only four cases explicitly noted as having concluded with the death of the patient.
John Knox also served for a time as coroner of Chester District. The official document, 23 September 1854, appointing him to this position, was signed by South Carolina Governor John L. Manning and is present in the collection.