Episode 33: Alexis and William


Alexis St. Martin and William Beaumont have one of the strangest relationships in the history of medicine — a young French-Canadian fur trapper with a hole in his stomach from an errant shotgun blast and the American army physician who cared for him, and then made his own career by turning Alexis into a human guinea pig. Through the decades of their complicated relationship, they’d revolutionize our understanding of the physiology of the stomach, put American medicine on the map, and start a conversation about the ethics of human experimentation that goes on to this day. Plus there’s a new #AdamAnswers about whether or not your body temperature and fevers can “run low”. All this and more on the latest episode of Bedside Rounds, a tiny podcast about fascinating stories in clinical medicine.

Sources:

  • Beaumont W. Experiments and Observations of the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion. Plattsburgh, NY: FP Allen; 1833.
  • Mackowiak PA et al, “A critical appraisal of 98.6 degrees F, the upper limit of the normal body temperature, and other legacies of Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich.” JAMA. 1992 Sep 23-30;268(12):1578-80.
  • Mackowiak PA, “Feel the heat: a short history of body temperature,” BMJ. 2017;359:j5697
  • Markel H, “How William Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin Seized the Moment of Scientific Progress,” JAMA, August 19, 2009—Vol 302, No. 7.
  • Myers NA and Durham Smith E, “A Debt to Alexis: The Beaumont-St Martin Story,” Aust NZ J Surg (1991) 67, 534-539.
  • Numbers RL, “William Beaumont and the Ethics of Human Experimentation,” Journal of the History of Biology, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring, 1979), pp. 113-135.
  • Obermeyer Z et al, Individual differences in normal body temperature: longitudinal big data analysis of patient records. BMJ. 2017; 359: j5468.
  • Osler W, “William Beaumont: A Pioneer American Physiologist,” JAMA Vol XXXIX No 20, Nov 15, 1902.