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.
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.
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.