Arkansas Medical Monthly (1880)

Notes, Primary Sources, Thesis Research

“Eureka Springs.” Arkansas Medical Monthly 1, no. 1 (1880): 1-3.

“Notwithstanding, however, the ludicrous aspect placed upon the reputation of these springs in the eyes of the medical profession, induced by the enthusiastic exageration [sic] of the people, there is evidently something about them worthy of our attention and careful inquiry.” (34)

“We visited the place during the latter part of December last, but owing to the fact that no analysis has as yet been made of the water (or, at least, none has come under our observation), it is impossible to base a scientific opinion upon its proposed therapeutic value.” (34)

Water Cures and Science

Notes, Summaries & Reviews, Thesis Research

George Weisz, “Water Cures and Science: The french Academy of Medicine and Mineral Waters in the Nineteenth Century,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 64, no. 3 (1990): 393-416.

In this piece, Weisz discusses institutional and individual attempts in nineteenth century France to place mineral waters and the therapies that involved them on a biomedical, statistical, and chemical foundation of therapeutic efficacy. He argues that the different way in which spa therapies are understood, utilized, and supported in Europe versus in North America is due to the medical and scientific fields’ support of hydrotherapy in the former, where it is largely absent in the latter.

Chemistry, Medicine, and the Legitimization of English Spas, 1740-1840

Notes, Summaries & Reviews, Thesis Research

Christopher Hamlin, “Chemistry, Medicine, and the Legitimization of English Spas, 1740-1840,” Medical History, Supplement No. 10 (1990): 67-81.

Hamlin, much like he does in A Science of Impurity, discusses the role of chemistry in the legitimization of health spas. He argues that their domination of the conversation was not due to any sort of revolution in techniques — there were actually a lot of widely recognized problems with analyzing mineral waters — but due to a myriad of factors that included the rise of the profession as a whole and individual chemists’ abilities to assert their ability to explain scientifically and objectively the concrete reasons for different spas’ medical effects.

“The Most Difficult Part of Chemistry”

Notes, Summaries & Reviews, Thesis Research

Noel G. Coley, “Physicians, Chemists and the Analysis of Mineral Waters: ‘The Most Difficult Part of Chemistry,'” Medical History, Supplement no. 10 (1990): 56-66.

Coley approaches the historical practice of analyzing mineral waters as someone interested in the development and refinement of analytical chemistry techniques. This isn’t particularly useful for my research, but her work does provide a good historical account of what sorts of problems chemists have had in analyzing natural waters and what sorts of techniques they have used and developed.

“An adept in medicine”

Notes, Summaries & Reviews, Thesis Research

M. D. Eddy, “‘An adept in medicine’: the Reverend Dr William Laing, nervous complaints and the commodification of spa water,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39 (2008): 1-13.

Dr. Laing (1742-1812) wrote two works on a town with mineral waters — Peterhead, Scotland — and used his knowledge of medical chemistry (along with testimonials) to explain the therapeutic powers of the waters. Eddy employs this as a case study through which to acquire a better understanding of the development and deployment of medico-scientific knowledge in explaining the therapeutic powers of spa water and its relationship to therapeutic commodification.

This study is outside of the timeline and geographic constraints of my work, but it provides a good historical perspective, and Eddy’s approach and the language he uses to describe some of the things I’m seeing in Eureka Springs are very helpful.

From medical chemistry to biochemistry

Notes, Thesis Research

Robert E. Kohler, From medical chemistry to biochemistry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

“European ideals and American realities, 1870-1900”

Many early American chemists trained in Germany, and as a result, “American biochemical institutions between 1875 and 1900 strongly resembled German institutions.” (95)

Juan H. Wright, Analytical Chemist

Notes, Primary Sources, Thesis Research

E. H. S. Bailey, “Vol VII. Special Report on Mineral Waters,” in The University Geological Survey of Kansas (Topeka: W. Y. Morgan, 1902).

Analysis of Arlington Springs, KS, no. 1-3, divided into ions and hypothetically combined (277-279)

Analysis of Wetmore mineral springs, KS, divided into ions and hypothetically combined (300)

Chapter VI: Methods of Analysis, of Calculation, and of Stating Results – discusses how tests should be run, but it appears that some analyses “are by other chemists than those of the survey.” So we don’t get a sense of how Wright may have conducted his, although it points to his being pretty progressive by breaking it down between ions and hypothetical combinations.

A Science of Impurity

Notes, Summaries & Reviews, Thesis Research

Christopher Hamlin, A Science of Impurity: Water Analysis in Nineteenth Century Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

In a case study of the political, social, cultural, and newly scientific conversation surrounding concerns about water quality in 19th century England, Christopher Hamlin shows that through the powerful claim at absolute, unbiased, and natural knowledge, science (especially chemistry) was used as a way of arguing for different standards and policies.

Hamlin points out something very interesting in his introduction. The 19th century is often seen as home to “the great watershed in environmental medicine, separating a pre-scientific period in which medicine could offer little more than a false cultural authority from the contemporary period of scientific precision where the authority is real,” an idea he takes as “unsatisfactory.” (3)

His first argument against the above narrative was the precarious financial situation of scientists, who often couldn’t count on their professorships to pay the bills if they weren’t already independently wealthy (a situation probably even more common in the US than in Britain). He cites chemists specifically, who often felt the need to accumulate side acts; “as consultants, witnesses, authors, entrepreneurs, as well as teachers.” This may help explain the historical record I’ve uncovered of Dr. Juan H. Wright, who seemed to have made a career (or at least part of one) by providing chemical analyses of springs around the midwest.

Chapter one deals with the chemistry behind mineral water analysis, breaking early- to mid-19th century strategies down into three contemporaneously recognized categories; physical examination (smell, taste, color, observed medicinal properties), “qualitative examination through the use of reagents, and a quantitative analysis of the evaporative residue.” (24-27) All were generally employed, although the last two were considered more scientifically telling. Hamlin makes clear that there was much debate within chemistry itself as to which tests were the most useful, when they should be employed, and how accurate they were. There seems to have been a lot of concern about how the tests themselves might alter the water and about whether certain combinations of chemicals in the water could affect a test’s outcome.

Interestingly, due to the way chemical reactions were understood before the late 19th century, when discussing medicinal benefits of waters chemists did not often take into account how the water’s contents may interact chemically within the human body. Physicians (and by extension spa proprietors and customers/patients) were used to working under the assumption that it was the salts, not ions, contained within mineral waters that were responsible for their medicinal value. The uncertainty-driven debates within the community of analytical chemists were not comfortable or economically valuable for those seeking water analyses, so they were generally glossed over and older conventions (tables of salts instead of ions) used. (36-37)

Chapter two, “Water Analysis and the Hegemony of Chemistry, 1800-40,” contains a lot of work that helps to clear up some of the stuff I’ve been seeing in my primary sources. Hamlin begins by briefly describing the rise of “trained ‘practical’ chemists” who did not limit their work to exploration and discovery but applied chemical techniques to “industry, commerce, government, law, and education.” (47) A more prominent role in society meant that these men were gaining authority, but how? Hamlin argues it was not because of “the progress of pure chemistry,” but rather due to “a combination of social needs and aggressive marketing…” (48)

Hamlin contends that a new kind of chemist — embodied by his two examples, William Thomas Brande and Alfred Swaine Taylor — emerged at the beginning of the 19th century whose contributions to original research were scanty but whose public presence and ability to sell chemistry as the answer to many of society’s most pressing problems was impressive. “…with decent laboratory skills, passing familiarity with the contents of the journals, tolerable lecturing talents, good connections, and untouchable confidence, one could make a decent living in London as a practical chemist.” (50) Oftentimes these men were hired by people with a vested interest in the medicinal benefits of the spa, and they would publish their results in both scientific journals and pamphlets for the springs. Many “pure” chemists (i.e., Humphry Davy) found these men problematic and quackish, but Hamlin is careful to state that the modern distinction between pure and applied science was in its infancy. Not every chemist and certainly not every layperson would have recognized this as bad chemistry, which helps to explain why the conflicts of interest were not seen as horrendously problematic. Another consideration is the kind of science these men thought they were doing; if they could gather enough analyses, payed for by whomever and for whatever reason, they may be able to draw larger conclusions from the data. Hamlin terms this “Baconian” science and argues that it helps to explain the willingness for chemists and doctors to accept what we would consider biased information as probable fact.

Though he does not explain in detail how these men made themselves visible to spa proprietors or physicians, Hamlin does argue that chemists became an important vehicle for providing scientific legitimization to the medical claims being made about mineral waters. It allowed comparisons to be made between mineral waters (OUR springs contain similar elements to Baden-Baden, and they’re found in your backyard!) and “symbolized that someone knew what was going on, that the medicinal environment one was to encounter was comprehended and would be applied in a precise and rational way.” (54) Chemists would often provide an analysis, then immediately below state possible medicinal benefits of the waters without explaining how the two connected; Hamlin argues that this is because it would have been understood by wealthy client or physician, and for the rest, that “it was the appearance of thoroughness that was to impress the reader.” (54)

The next section deals with attempts at synthesizing mineral waters, which is interesting but not immediately relevant. Maybe come back to this later?

Another facet of the relationship between chemists and doctors in the testing of mineral waters was which set of knowledge to begin from. Doctors and some chemists believed that it was the chemist’s job to take the observed medicinal effects of the water and explain them with an analysis. If the analysis yielded results that didn’t make sense, it must be a problem with the chemist’s method. Some, however, thought that “chemical composition was the only thing that could be empirically determined.” (60) Claims about medical benefits were unfounded assertions based on testimonial, and so it must be that medical benefits should be deduced from the chemical composition of the waters. We see again that the patient’s narrative is taken out of the equation in an attempt at an objective, scientific truth.

This context helps to explain some of the analyses in pamphlets and government documents alike that read like advertisements at times and situates the chemistry these men were doing in the context of practical and analytical chemistry. I wonder to what extent Hamlin’s conclusions carry over to the American situation and plan on supplementing this book with one about American chemistry. In reading the quotes he provides from his primary sources and seeing the format of the tables, however, it seems to me that the situation I’m working with is very similar to 19th century England.

Mineral springs survey texts, USGS

Notes, Thesis Research

Albert C. Peale, “Mineral Waters,” in Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Mineral Resources of the United States Calendar Year 1885 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886).

Mentions ES in AR section

Albert C. Peale, List and Analyses of the Mineral Springs of the United States,” in Department of the Interior, Bulletin of the United States Geological Survey no. 32 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1886).

Arkansas’ Entry (1, 2)

Basin Spring Analysis

Albert C. Peale, “Natural Mineral Waters of the United States in Part II. Accompanying Papers, of The Fourteenth Annual Report of the Director of the United States Geological Survey in J. W. Powell, dir., The Fourtheenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey, 1892-’93 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1894).

List of American Mineral Spring Resorts, under Arkansas

David T. Day, “Part IV. Mineral Resources of the United States, 1894, Non-Metallic Products,” Sixteenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey, 1894-95 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895).

Mineral waters, List of Commercial Springs, under Arkansas

James K. Crook, The Mineral Waters of the United States and their Therapeutic Uses with an Account of the Various Mineral Spring Localities, their Advantages as Health Resorts, Means of Access, Etc. (New York & Philadelphia: Lea & Brothers Co., 1899).

Eureka Springs’s Entry (1, 2)

Analysis of Crescent, Dairy, Basin, Magnetic Springs & climactic chart by Dr. John D. Jordan