CEPI Curiosities: Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue

CEPI Curiosities: Tales from Medical History's Strange Side

Hello, fellow historico-medico aficionados, this is Kevin for another installment of CEPI Curiosities, our monthly look back at the interesting and unusual from the annals of medical history. Today I am in the unenviable position of having to follow up our series of guest writers: students from the Karabots Junior Fellows Program who put together pieces examining the differences between venom and poison, the story of Chang and Eng Bunker, Harry Eastlack’s battle with FOP (fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva), and Chevalier Jackson and his eclectic collection of swallowed objects. At the very least, I will do my absolute best to maintain the high standards they set.

Recently, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Section on Public Health and Preventive Medicine has focused on smoking as a significant public health issue for 2016. On September 26, the College held a discussion by Alan Blum, MD, who addressed what he viewed as anti-tobacco activists’ failures to counter tobacco use. Yesterday the College hosted a Public Health Grand Rounds event on the role of tobacco retailers and advertisers and how their methods undermine smokers’ attempts to quit. Just last week, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced plans to crack down on retailers’ exposure of tobacco products to children. In the spirit of these discussions, this edition of CEPI Curiosities is going to address a related campaign–drug addiction–and a highly publicized but very unusual attempt to warn kids about the effects of drugs. Allow me introduce you–or if you’re a child of the eighties/nineties like myself, reintroduce you–to Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue.

Allow me contextualize what you have just watched (or, again for my contemporaries, what you have possibly been repressing in the deepest recesses of your mind for the better part of a quarter century). During the 1980s, there began an active media campaign to warn American children about the dangers of drugs as part of the larger “War on Drugs,” a national campaign to combat the proliferation of drugs. These attempts took on a variety of forms. One of the the most famous spokespersons of this movement was First Lady Nancy Reagan with her “Just Say No” campaign, but there were numerous others. In the early 1980s, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates helped establish the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Program, wherein police officers visited schools to teach lessons about drugs and how to resist peer pressure. D.A.R.E. eventually expanded to schools nationwide. Beginning in 1989, arcade enthusiasts discovered coin-operated video games bore a title card from William S. Sessions, then head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, informing players “Winners Don’t Use Drugs.” Television shows devoted “very special episodes” to the issue of drugs; one of the more famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) was the November 3, 1990, Saved by the Bell episode “Jessie’s Song,” in which the character Jessie Spanno grapples with an addiction to caffeine pills (the show followed with another anti-drug episode a year later with the November 30, 1991, anti-marijuana PSA “No Hope with Dope“). PSAs addressed the effects of drugs including the now-iconic “This is Your Brain on Drugs” and Paul Reubens’ (TV’s Pee-wee Herman of Pee-wee’s Playhouse and several films) segment on crack cocaine.

Image of the FBI logo with the caption "Winners Don't Use Drugs" below; this appeared on arcade video games from 1989 to 2000

A variation of this image appeared on arcade games from 1989 to 2000.

However, nothing out of the anti-drug youth media campaign was quite as epic in scale as Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue. When it first aired on April 21, 1990, the half-hour special was a television event; it ran simultaneously on all four major television networks–ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX–as well as on several cable channels. The show was a veritable “Who’s Who” of popular Saturday morning cartoon characters, including Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Winnie the Pooh, Garfield, the ghost Slimer from Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters, the animated version of ALF (yes, ALF had his own animated series because pretty much every licensed property got one in the 80s and early 90s), the Muppet Babies, and the Loony Tunes. The special opened with a message from then-President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush informing youngsters of the hazards of narcotics before segueing into the feature presentation: a morality play about the effects of drugs.

VHS cover for "Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue" Source: IMDB

VHS cover for “Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue” Source: IMDB

The story follows Michael, a teenager who is addicted to marijuana who even resorts to raiding his little sister’s piggy bank to fuel his habit. Along the way, he also falls into a rough crowd who attempt to pressure him into harder drugs such as crack cocaine. His addiction prompts characters in several toys and posters in his sister’s room to come to life to halt his behavior. What follows is effectively a thirty-minute “tough love” intervention wherein the various characters show him the effects of drugs on his brain (via a psychedelic roller coaster ride with the baby versions of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy) and his drug-addled future as effectively a desiccated, sunken-eyed husk. In between these segments characters take turns expressing the sentiment of anti-drug slogans at the time (“There’s nothing cool about a fool on drugs,” Kermit intones; “Why don’t you just say no,” Huey from Ducktales offers). All the while “Mr. Smoke,” a aptly-named sentient smoke cloud voiced by none other than George C. Scott, attempts to keep him on his current drug-induced path. Eventually Michael comes around and swears off drugs, and Mr. Smoke is defeated by being cast out a window. The characters’ task completed, they return to the various licensed products from whence they came.

Michael and "Mr. Smoke" from Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue, Image Source: Tumblr

Michael and “Mr. Smoke” from Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue, Image Source: Tumblr

Many of these anti-drug attempts of the time, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue included, were equal parts well-intentioned and ineffectual. Despite once having a presence in nearly 75% of America’s schools, there is little evidence to suggest the D.A.R.E. Program had any effect on children’s choice to abstain from drugs (in fact some have argued it had the opposite effect). There’s no data to suggest any correlation between a person’s drug use (or lack thereof) and exposure to Former FBI Director William Sessions’ slogan on arcade games. Moreover, Cartoon All-Stars and other anti-drug messages’ viewpoint of drug addiction as a personal failing (“Users are losers and losers are users” went one McGruff the Crime Dog PSA; another declared “No one says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up‘”) has given way to the view of drug addiction as a disease, with the addict as a victim in need of sympathy and care. The message of marijuana as a “gateway drug” has also been largely disproven by scientists. In the light of current approaches to drug treatment, many of the methods employed by the Cartoon All-Stars seem antiquated at best and potentially harmful at worst.

In fact, critics have accused the campaign of having an effect worse than what it attempted to prevent. The greater War on Drugs, of which these elements were a part, led to increased criminal penalties for drug-related offenses which led to a significant increase in the American prison population; the crackdown on drugs disproportionately affected minority groups.

Until next time, catch you on the strange side!

Philly Youth Take a Stand for a Tobacco-Free Philadelphia

Students from the KArabots Junior Fellows Program pose with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, public health officials, and other youth at an October 12, 2016, press conference on increased tobacco regulation

The students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program did not have their weekly meeting today; however, that didn’t stop some of the Fellows from being active in the public health community. Two of our Fellows–Hanaa and Sheila–joined Jacqui Bowman and Kevin Impellizeri as they took a trip to City Hall to attend a press conference on limiting teen’s exposure to tobacco. During the press conference, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced the city’s new plan to limit tobacco retailers’ presence near schools and impose tougher penalties on retailers who sell tobacco products to children and teens, including suspending the tobacco licenses of repeat offenders. The goal of the program is to help create Philadelphia’s first smoke free generation. Afterwards, Hanaa and Sheila posed with the Mayor, public officials, and other Philly youth in attendance, taking their stand against tobacco.

Karabots Junior Fellows Sheila and Hanaa pose at the Mayor's Office at Philadelphia City Hall

For more information on the Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Program, check out their website or follow them on Twitter (@gethealthyPHL) or Instagram (@gethealthyphilly).

The Teva Interns Visit the African American Museum

Students in the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program pose in front of the African American Museum in Philadelphia on October 6, 2016

Last week, students in the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program took a field trip to the African American Museum in Philadelphia (701 Arch Street). Founded in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is committed to celebrating the historical and cultural contributions of African Americans as well as serving as a forum for addressing issues related to social justice. Led by an experienced tour guide, the Interns explored Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776-1876, the site’s permanent exhibition devoted to the stories and contributions of African Americans in the Quaker City during the the first century of the American republic.

Their visit coincided with the opening of the Museum’s new exhibitI Found God in Myself: The 40th Anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls…. The exhibition celebrates the 40th anniversary of Ntozake Shange’s performance piece for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf; the play is a series of interconnected poems of the struggles of African American women told by seven African American characters identified with one of seven colors. To commemorate the anniversary, the exhibition displays 20 art pieces of varying media.

A piece depicting a bathtub covered in buttons in the African American Museum in Philadelphia exhibit I Found God in Myself

We encourage you to visit the African American Museum and experience the exhibit for yourself. I Found God in Myself runs through January 2, 2017. For more information, check out the Museum’s homepage.

Out4STEM @ OutFest 2016

Logos of Out4STEM and OutFest 2016 side by side.

This Sunday, October 9, from Noon-6PM, Out4STEM will be taking part in OutFest 2016. Organized by Philly Pride, OutFest celebrates the LGBT community with the city’s biggest LGBTQ+ event and the largest National Coming Out Day event in the world! Out4STEM is joining 152 other participating organizations in a massive block party, including live entertainment, games, and health screenings. If you happen to be in the Gayborhood, be sure to stop by our table to learn more about Out4STEM, Out@Mütter, and CEPI’s other programs.

Philly Youth Browse Banned Books

Three students from the Karabots Junior Fellows program stand in front of books on display in the Historical Medical Library for the Banned Books Week exhibit

Last week, students in the Karabots Junior Fellows and Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Programs tackled some controversial reading material. September 25-October 1 marked the celebration of Banned Books Week. Started in 1982, Banned Books Week raises awareness of books that have been challenged or outright banned in order to raise awareness of risks raised by censorship and encourage freedom of expression. Every year there are calls to restrict access to books held in bookstores and school and public libraries; the American Library Association (ALA) reports that since 1982 over 11,300 books have been challenged. Reasons for a challenge on a given book often stem from objections to content or subject matter, especially when it comes to access to minors. Some famous novels that have been challenged or banned include John Steinbeck’s  The Grapes of Wrath (for language and sexual references), Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (for its political message), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (for its depictions of race) and even Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop (for encouraging violence against fathers!).

In the spirit of the season, the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia displayed an exhibit of challenged books from their collection. CEPI also contributed, selecting books for the exhibit on behalf of our three Youth Programs. Their selections were:

The students visited the Library and talked with Library Assistant Caitlin Angelone, who introduced them to the entries in the exhibit and discussed the reasons people attempt to restrict access to certain books. As they explored the exhibit, our students shared their thoughts on intellectual freedom and censorship, and our instructors encouraged them to read a banned or challenged book for themselves.

Students from the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program stand in front of books on display for the Historical medical Library's exhibit for Banned Books Week. They are speaking with Library Assistant Caitlin Angelone.

If you would like to learn more about challenged books, the American Library Association maintains a list of the most frequently challenged books. The official page of Banned Books Week has curated a a selection of challenged books from the Library of Congress’ exhibit: Books that Shaped AmericaFeel free to read over the lists to see which ones you’ve read or may add to your reading list.

Behind Blue Eyes: A Look at the Genetic and Cultural Components that Propelled the Spread of Blue-Eyed Humans

Close-up image of a blue eye

This thoroughly-researched piece is by Sarah Henry, an instructor at Delaware County Community College and tour guide at the Mütter Museum.–KI

I have blue eyes and I have always been interested in exploring my own genetic origins, but I’m not the only one interested in this genetic trait. Countless songs and poems reference people with blue eyes, whether considered a mark of beauty, a representation of sadness, or, in certain cultures, a sign of the oppressor. But blue eyes, so popular in art, are relatively new in human evolution, as new as the invention of writing itself. My interest in this subject was sparked, in part, by a unique archaeological discovery; in 2006, researchers uncovered the world’s oldest confirmed blue-eyed person, dating to approximately 7,000 years ago. This discovery helped to confirm theories regarding the familial relationship of nearly all blue-eyed individuals. This article will exam the genetic origins of blue eyes in humans, the spread of the blue-eyed gene, and the future of this genetic trait.

Genetics: How Do They Work?

The basic explanation of eye-color works like this: a person needs only one dominant brown-eyed gene (from one parent) to be brown-eyed but needs to have two recessive blue-eyed genes (one from each parent) to be blue-eyed. You have probably seen this explanation accompanied by a simple Punnet square (Image 1) in your science textbooks. However, new studies illustrate that the genetics behind eye color are not so straightforward. There are actually two separate genes that control eye color in humans. In his article, “Blue Eye Color in Humans,” Hans Eiberg writes, “Blue/Brown eye-color are known to the public as a school example of inheritance of monogenetic [one gene] inheritance, however, the variation in pigment concentration and the iris suggest the eye color genetics to be far more complex as supported by recent data.” In other words, eye color is controlled not by one gene passed from parent to offspring, but by two genes working in tandem; a more complex chart would take both of these genes into consideration (Image 2).

Punnet Square demonstrating the likelihood of brown or blue eyes.

Image 1

Genetic chart demonstrating the likelihood of brown or blue eye color.

Image 2









These genes are called OCA2 and HERC2 (represented as O, o, H and h in Image 2). The simplified explanation is that the OCA2 gene controls pigment in the stroma (the tissue and blood vessels) of the iris (the colored part of the eye around the pupil) and the HERC2 gene is needed to help turn on the OCA2 gene to cause it to produce this pigment, resulting in brown eyes. If a person has a non-functioning OCA2 gene, they will always have blue eyes, because the HERC2 gene can’t make the broken OCA2 gene work. Likewise, if a person has a HERC2 gene which doesn’t work, the OCA2 gene will “underachieve,” failing to produce enough pigment to make brown eyes, resulting in blue eyes. These two genes aren’t directly related to each other, yet they affect each other. In this dependent relationship, both of these genes must work to give an individual brown eyes, a genetic relationship known as “epistasis.” Because of this process, it is actually possible (although rare) for two blue-eyed parents to have a brown-eyed child. If one parent passes on a working HERC2 gene and one passes on a working OCA2 gene, rather than the broken version of each, the resulting child could have brown eyes (Image 3). In addition to this more complex explanation of eye color as an inherited trait, this new study also suggests that all blue-eyed people stemmed from a single common ancestor.

Illustration of how dominant and recessive genes work with regard to human eye color

Image 3

How Do We Know All Blue-eyed People Are Related?

Homo sapiens (modern humans) emerged around 200,000 years ago in Africa, but the mutation that causes blue eyes did not appear until sometime around 10,000 years ago. In a study conducted by Professor Hans Eiberg and a team from the University of Copenhagen, researchers examined mitochondrial DNA from 155 blue-eyed subjects from Denmark, two from Jordan, five from Turkey, and 45 brown-eyed candidates, looking at the locus (specific location or position of a gene) responsible for brown or blue eyes. The result was the discovery that more than 97% of blue-eyed people share the single H-1 haplotype (a group of genes within an organism that was inherited together from a single parent). Eiberg and his team write, “A shared haplotype among blue-eyed individuals is almost perfect and suggests the blue color phenotype is caused by a founder mutation.” This means that the vast majority of people with blue eyes share a single inherited genetic mutation, rather than each person with blue eyes possessing a unique mutation. The study also tested seven blue-eyed Mediterranean individuals unrelated to the Danish participants as a control group. They, too, carried the H-1 haplotype. These individuals with the H-1 haplotype all inherited the same switch at the same location in their genetic coding, whereas, brown-eyed individuals have a number of variations in melanin production and DNA, with brown-eyed phenotypes being spread out between haplotypes H-5 and H-10. In short, almost all blue-eyed people came from a single ancestor, which is proven by the possession of the exact mutation at the same location in their genetic coding. That leads us back to the blue-eyed man from the article that sparked this entire investigation.

Why is This Stone Age Body in Spain so Important?

In 2006, researchers discovered a 7,000 year old body from the Stone Age in the La Brana cave system in Leon in Northern Spain (Image 4). Genetic testing determined that this man had blue eyes. It was not in itself unusual, but what is remarkable is that he is the earliest known person with blue eyes. Far from being a fair-haired, far-skinned man that we may have expected, his genetics reveal he’s a mixture of other traits. Although he’s closely related to the modern residents of Scandinavia, he also carries the dark-skinned genes of an African, as well as curly dark hair and lactose intolerance (Image 5). So if blue-eyed people originated near the Black Sea and were concentrated in Northern Europe, how did our mystery man end up in Spain?

Artist's rendering of the face of the LaBrana skeleton

Image 4

In order to answer this question, we need to delve into Stone Age migratory patterns. According to Pickrell and Reich, there are two theories of cultural migration: Demographic Stasis vs. Demographic Change. In Demographic Stasis, inhabitants living in a particular region are the descendants of the first people to arrive in that region, meaning the people in a certain area were never integrated into or replaced by people from a second migration. Demographic Change posits that inhabitants of a region descended from people who arrived during periods of technological or cultural change, replacing the previous inhabitants. These periods of change can be tracked by sudden changes of culture in the archaeological record. Essentially, if we can track people by their technology (things like tools and weapons) and implements of culture (things like pottery and jewelry), we can track how people migrated from one place to another and brought their genetic traits with them.

Photograph of the Stone-Age skeleton discovered at La Brana in northern Spain in 2006

Image 5

Specifically, we can see this during the Neolithic (New Stone Age) Revolution, a period of time where humans began to cultivate crops, domesticate animals, and use polished stone tools. Prior to the Neolithic Revolution, almost all the world’s inhabitants subsisted primarily by hunting and gathering, but after the Neolithic Revolution, small pockets of farming emerged, first in the Fertile Crescent, China, and India and then spreading across Eurasia. The Neolithic Revolution occurred between 6,000-10,000 years ago, and because people were better able to procure a steady source of food, the population increased significantly. The technologies which emerged during this time allow archaeologists and researchers to track cultural migration from the northwestern part of the Black Sea region (where the first humans with blue eyes lived) into the rest of Europe. A study of Armenian haplotypes determined, “…hospitable climatic conditions and the key geographic position of the Armenian Highland suggest that it may have served as a conduit for several waves of expansion of the first agriculturalists from the Near East to Europe and the North Caucasus.” People migrated out of the Caucuses (modern-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) and into other parts of Europe (Image 6). Hovhannisyan, et al. write, “Apparently, the population migration of the first farmers from the Levant could have been both by land to Anatolia and the North Caucasus, and by maritime routes via eastern Mediterranean islands towards continental Europe.” Sparked by the population boom created by the Neolithic revolution, people began migrating faster and farther than ever before.

Map of Europe displaying migration patterns for humans with the R1b1a2 (blue-eyed) gene

Image 6

Another study, focusing specifically on the genetics of residents of the Iberian Peninsula (excluding the Basques), indicates a mixture of genetic traits from the Caucuses, Central Asia and North Africa, probably related to migration during the Neolithic Era. A study of eight Bronze Age individuals dated to between 5,500 and 3,500 years ago shows an admixture between existing hunter-gatherer groups and people from later migrations, meaning people who migrated to this area began to blend into the peoples that already lived there by blending both their culture and genetics.

Why Did this Recessive Genetic Trait Survive for Thousands of Years?

How did the blue-eyed gene persist if there’s no overt evolutionary advantage to possessing it? One argument would be that those original groups of people who possessed blue eyes produced offspring with other blue-eyed people in their own group, leading to a population where blue eyes were the norm. However, there are both objective and subjective benefits to possessing blue eyes. Subjectively, possessing blue eyes may just make one individual more sexually attractive to another. Objectively, blue eyes filter light differently than dark eyes (dark eyes, like dark skin, possess more pigment which can protect those organs from sun damage), which make them especially advantageous in the low light of Northern European winters. Because people with light eyes are more sensitive to light, they can see better in areas that lack sufficient sunlight for large portions of the year. Conversely, while light sensitivity (photophobia) proved useful in a world prior to electricity, it actually opens blue-eyed people up to a host of medical problems including an increased risk of macular degeneration, which can ultimately lead to blindness because light eyes are worse at filtering out harmful UV light.

What is the future of blue eyes?

At the turn of the 20th century, 50 percent of people living in the United States had blue eyes. Now, however, people are more likely than ever to marry outside of their ethnic group, leading to more genetically diverse offspring and a decline in blue eyes due to the dominance of the brown-eyed genes. Currently, in the U.S., only 17 percent of the population (1 in 6) has blue eyes and only between 5-8% of people worldwide possess the trait. (Green eyes are even more rare, but they are a topic for another article.)  Even though they are new in human history, blue eyes are already on the decline.

Whether used to convey beauty, as one writer notes about the poetry of Longfellow and Romanticism, “It delighted in sentimental musings amid the ruins, in pathetic legend, in dreamy pictures of monks and harpers and knights and radiant maidens with soft blue eyes” or to convey sadness like in the Who song “Behind Blue Eyes,” where Roger Daltry sings, “No one knows what it’s like/ To be the bad man/ To be the sad man/ Behind blue eyes,” or as Kristina Richardson writes in her article regarding the perception of blue eyes in the Islamic Middle Ages, “My preliminary archival work suggests the Medieval Muslim male writers overwhelmingly accepted the characterization of blue and green eyes as unattractive and deviant,” a line of thinking fueled by the brutality of European crusaders who raped, pillaged and murdered in an attempt to reclaim the Holy Land. Blue eyes have been a notable trait in literature across cultures for centuries. Though the future of blue eyes is unclear, nearly all living and dead blue-eyed individuals share a familial relationship through a single genetic mutation. If you have blue eyes or know someone with blue eyes, they are more than likely related to that 7,000 year old man whose remains that researchers found in a remote cave in Spain.


A. Hoyhannisyan, Z. Khachatryan. M. Haber, P. Hrechdakian, et all. Different waves and directions of Neolithic migrations in the Armenian Highland. Investigative Genetics 5 (2014).

B. Starr. “Eye Color.” TheTech. TheTech, 14 October 2004. <http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask59>

B. Starr. “How Blue Eyed Parents Can Have Brown Eyed Children: Two Different Ways to Get Blue Eyes.” TheTech. <http://genetics.thetech.org/how-blue-eyed-parents-can-have-brown-eyed-children>

F.L. Patty. Sidelights on American Literature. “The Shadow of Longfellow.” Century Company, 1922: p. 237.

H. Eiberg, J. Troelsen, M. Nielsen, A. Mikkelsen, J. Mengel-From, K.W. Kjaer, L. Hansen. Blue eye color in humans may be caused by a perfectly associated founder mutation in a regulatory element located within the HERC2 gene inhibiting OCA2 expression. Human Genetics 123 (2008): 177-187.

I. Lazaridis, et all. Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day European. Nature 513 (18 September 2014): 409-413.

K. Richardson. “Blue eyes in Islamic Middle Ages.” Medievalists. Medievalists, 16 February 2014. <http://www.medievalists.net/2014/02/16/blue-eyes-islamicate-middle-ages/>

J. Bryner. “One Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes.” LiveScience. LiveScience, 31 January 2008. <http://www.livescience.com/9578-common-ancestor-blue-eyes.html&gt;

J.K. Pickrell and D. Reich. Toward a new history and geography of human genes informed by ancient DNA. Trends in Genetics Vol. 30, No. 9 (Sept 2014): 377-389.

J. Mengel-From, C. Borsting, J. J. Sanchez, Hans Eiberg, Neils Morling. Human eye colours and HERC2, OCA2 and MATP. Forensic Science International: Genetics 4 (2010): 323-328.

S. Connor. “Revealed: First Ol’ Blue Eyes is 7,000 years old and was a caveman living in Spain.” IndependentUK. IndependentUK, 26 January 2014. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/revealed-first-ol-blue-eyes-is-7000-years-old-and-lived-in-a-cave-9086310.html>

T. Günther, C. Valdiosera, H. Malmström, I Urena, et all. Ancient genomes link early farmers from Atapuerca in Spain to modern-day Basques. PNAS 112 (2015): 11917-11922

University of Copenhagen. “Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130170343.htm>.

CEPI Curiosities: Chevalier Jackson Chewed Up and Spit Out

CEPI Curiosities: Tales from Medical History's Strange Side

Welcome again, fellow historico-medico philes for the latest installment of CEPI Curiosities. This time around, we round out our series of guest-authored pieces with Karabots Junior Fellows intern Paul Robbins’ third and final post. If you haven’t seen his previous two articles on Chang and Eng and FOP (fibrodisplasia ossificans progressiva), I recommend you go and do that. In the meantime, here’s Paul’s take on Chevalier Jackson and his collection of swallowed objects.

Chevalier Jackson was born on November 4, 1865, in Pittsburgh, PA. He was a Philadelphia otolaryngologist and a Fellow of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Chevalier Jackson created a method to remove swallowed objects from the human lungs. He is most known for his collection of swallowed objects gathered over a career that continued for almost 75 years. Dr. Jackson’s collection includes 2,374 swallowed objects.


Dr. Chevalier Jackson

It was said that Chevalier Jackson had a cold, cruel, and lonely childhood. He had his own laboratory at the age of four where worked with wood and sharp tools. As a child he had no intimate friends and few companions; unlike other boys his age Chevalier did not find interest in physical activities such as football, baseball, or dancing. Jackson was bullied as a child; he was bullied so much that at one point he was thrown into a trench and was found unconscious by a dog.

X-Ray of patient who swallowed safety pin

Chevalier Jackson went to Thomas Jefferson University and received a MD. He also went to England to study laryngology which is the branch of medicine that deals with the larynx and its diseases. After his college years, he went on and became a otolaryngologist. A otolaryngology is the study of diseases of the ear and throat. Dr Jackson’s specialty was the removal of objects from people’s throats. His most frightening procedure was when he had to extract three open safety pins from a nine-month-old baby.


He kept and took careful records of each swallowed object as an example for other otolaryngologists while performing bronchoscopy. Bronchoscopy is a procedure in which a hollow tube called a bronchoscope is injected into your airways to provide a view of the tracheobronchial tree. More than 80% of his patients were under the age of 15. Dr Jackson’s collection of over 2,000 swallowed objects consists mostly of safety pins, toys, coins, medals, and buttons.

Dr. Jackson practiced his techniques for extracting swallowed objects on a doll named Michelle. Michelle had a child sized esophagus which made it extremely easier for him to practice his techniques on her. Once, Jackson even demonstrated an emergency tracheotomy on Michelle; the scar on her mouth is still shown. Michelle helped Chevalier Jackson gain confidence to operate and try his new ideas on real children. Because of Michelle, Jackson was able to save the lives of over 98% of the children he treated.


If you’d like to learn more about Chevalier Jackson, his whole collection is located in carefully-arranged drawers in the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.