Over the years I have written a small number of things which can be described as historical, and they cover various of my areas of interest. They include:
Medicine and medical education
- The much neglected work on medical education by Sir James Paget, the great nineteenth century surgeon and pathologist.
- A new interpretation of the illnesses of Charles Dickens, whom I have suggested suffered symptoms of the neuropsychological syndrome of neglect, as well perhaps as other problems due to damage to the right parietal area. The original study in the Lancet was subsequently reprinted in the Dickens Quarterly.
- A statistical analysis of the wealth of distinguished UK doctors, based on probate records summarised in the entries of the newly revised Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- The ISPIUA project. In the late 1960s a large-scale project was funded by the British Government to assess whether Tests of Academic Achievement were likely to be of help in predicting which students would perform better at university. The almost entirely negative findings of the Investigation into Supplementary Predictive Information for University Admission have by and large been neglected despite their importance for current debates over the use of aptitude tests in student selection.
- An analysis of the life expectancy of Italian Renaissance painters, based on a re-analysis of the information available in the printed lists of Bernard Berenson. This was the first paper I ever published in a medical journal.
Handedness, lateralisation and asymmetry
- The decline and fall of the rate of left-handedness during the nineteenth and then twentieth centuries. A key piece of work was an analysis waving by the right and left arms in the documentary films of the Mitchell and Kenyon, that were made between about 1900 and 1906, and showed hundreds of people in the streets of northern England. Work in press has also looked in more detail at these historical changes.
- Alexander the Great is often described as being left-handed, although Jocelyn Penny Small has shown that there is no classical evidence for the claim. My study asked instead about the myth of Alexander's left-handedness.
- The changing portrayal of the left and right cheeks, particularly in the art of Renaissance Italy. This was analysed in detail in my PhD thesis [link to chapter 13] and was also part of a broader review on the role of asymmetry in art and aesthetics
- A very critical review of the concept of pathological left-handedness, which was described by one reviewer as an assassination attempt on several of the great figures of neuropsychology. The paper was only ever printed because of the kindness of Marcel Kinsbourne.
- The enigmatic history of Dr A K Siewert, who was Ukrainian, working in Kiev and known as Dr A K Zivert. He was the first to describe a case of what has since become known as Kartagener's syndrome or Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, in which along with bronchiectasis, sinusitis and reduced male infertility, there is also a total reversal of the viscera, the heart and stomach being on the right, the liver on the left, and so on. A history of the Kiev Department can be found here.
- A much loved colleague, A R Jonckheere, known always as 'Jonck', died in 2005. John Valentine and I had the idea of putting together a tribute to him, based largely around the contents of his library shelves, with John doing most of the hard work that was involved. The shelves show so eloquently his catholic intellectual interests. Click here for obituaries in The Independent and The Guardian.