Daily Archives: December 5, 2012

Quacks Are Everywhere and Have Been For a Long time

One of the things I like about reading the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is the section on articles published in the Journal 100 years ago. In November of this year an interesting article that was published on November 9, 1912 was republished. There was titled “Telepathic Diagnosis!”

It seems that Dr. J. A. Quackenbos uncovered the story of a telepathic Belgian woman who apparently had the power to diagnose diseases from afar. It seems to perform her magic she must be put into a quasi-trance by hypnosis and from there she can psychically travel to the afflicted person and look inside them and determine what their medical problem might be. Wow. Wish I could do that. It would’ve saved me countless hours of head scratching and worry over the past 40 years.

Patent Meds

Patent Medicines

At first glance you might think that Dr. Quackenbos is the origin of the term quack. But that’s not the case. It actually comes from the old Dutch word kwakzalver, which means  a person who chatters or prattles. From that the word quack, which means someone who fraudulently pretends to have medical skills that are not real, evolved. Quacks have been with us throughout history from the ancient patent medicine and snake oil salesman to the modern day manufacturers of pills and tonics and potions that are supposed to cure everything from schizophrenia to diabetes. Is all PT Barnum supposedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”


PT Barnum and Tom Thumb

PT Barnum and Tom Thumb



Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Medical History, Medical Issues

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