The Irritable Heart of Soldiers and the Origins of Anglo-American Cardiology: The US Civil War (1861) to World War I (1918), 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Irritable Heart of Soldiers and the Origins of Anglo-American Cardiology

The US Civil War (1861) to World War I (1918), 1st Edition

By Charles F. Wooley


338 pages

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Hardback: 9780754605959
pub: 2002-09-28
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It may seem paradoxical that the American Civil War and World War I, both of which witnessed slaughter on a previously unimaginable scale, should provoke such intense interest in soldiers' hearts. Yet, during and between these wars there was much discussion of a condition which incapacitated many thousands of otherwise healthy troops. This condition, characterised by chest pains, palpitations, breathlessness, fatigue, syncope and exercise intolerance, became known during 1860s as the irritable heart of soldiers. By the First World War the terminology had changed to soldier's heart, then to neurocirculatory asthenia. In this study, the author brings to bear his expertise as a historian, professor of medicine and a former soldier to analyse the condition and to trace the changing medical and social attitudes to it. By viewing the condition through the dual lenses of history and modern medical knowledge, this work provides a unique perspective on one of the pioneering areas of Anglo-American cardiology.


'… a fascinating medical journey back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean… Wooley has provided an excellent framework…' The New England Journal of Medicine '… a fascinating composite of political, scientific, and personal narratives.' 'This well researched work comes from the pen of a skilled physician, a meticulous historian and a soldier… highly recommended.' Journal of Medical Biography '… concise and very informative… It is a fascinating tale, and the book ties together all of the developments of Anglo-American cardiology in an excellent package that is quite digestible thanks to its size and its thread of interconnected collaborations and rivalries. This is a very good summary of the diagnostic techniques available to clinicians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.' Isis

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: from irritable heart to soldier’s heart; The United States Civil War: Da Costa at Turner’s Lane; Medical disorders, diseases, statistics and pensions: Civil War; The 19th-century British soldier, Maclean and Netley; Symptoms and patient histories: functional versus organic heart disease; Diagnosis in the 19th century; Pulse and pressure, inventions and instruments, measurements and records; A new clinical currency: technology, laboratories and books; Mind and body, brain and heart; World War I: Mackenzie and Osler; The military heart hospitals: Thomas Lewis; Minority opinions from the military heart hospitals: Clifford Allbutt; Samuel Levine and neurocirculatory asthenia; Lewis Conner and the examination of 4 million men; Anglo-American cardiology; Where are the diseases of yesteryear?; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General