By Ann Crichton-Harris
In Khartoum in 1917, Dr. Christopherson injected seventy bilharzia sufferers with antimony tartrate and cured them. This biography examines the lifetime of this scientific pioneer, his struggle for precedence survival opposed to the politics of exclusion in colonial Africa.
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Extra resources for Poison in Small Measure: Dr. Christopherson and the Cure for Bilharzia
Competition for priority, whether admitted or not, was hampered by the time required to transmit information. Physicians working in the mother country had the advantage. Those working in the colonies might wait six weeks or more for a paper to reach an editor in Europe or for a professional journal to arrive from England. As Mark Harrison wrote: “. . ”25 He cites the priority fight conducted by Ronald Ross and the Italian, Batista Grassi, over malaria, and the lamentations of others distressed that medical textbooks were being imported from France and Germany.
Pinel in the Maghreb: Liberation, Confinement, and Psychiatric reform in French North Africa (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Fall 2005, Vol. 79, No. 3), p. 465. introduction 13 elsewhere. The difference: British living and working in Sudan might neither acquire land nor settle in Sudan, both of which were permitted in Kenya, for instance. Using Sudan, its people, and its wealth, for the ‘benefit’ of the empire, was of course, constructively rationalized. For physicians working in the two colonial systems, there was more similarity than discrepancy, particularly with regard to the negative aspects.
Once his observation had been repeated many times he went on to refine the dosages, methods of administration of the drug and to control, as far as possible, for the serious toxicity of tartar emetic. Christopherson’s discovery had come by chance. The important point here is that he understood the exciting possibility that fate had presented. He took the potential of that unexpected outcome and ran with it. Alexander Fleming did the same with his discovery of penicillin in 1929, and was rewarded with a knighthood and a Nobel prize for medicine.
Poison in Small Measure: Dr. Christopherson and the Cure for Bilharzia by Ann Crichton-Harris