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History of paediatrics and child health

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G/THUR/HIS1 HIS MASTERS’ VOICES

M. James, A. Williams.Centre for Health, Medicine and Society: Past and Present, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

While Dickens and other 19th century writers protested at the conditions in which many children existed, the caring voices of contemporary fathers remain largely unheard. Resulting perceptions require reconsideration! From original sources, this paper presents the voices of two fathers during the fatal illnesses of their children.

John Tremayne (1780–1851) was MP for Cornwall from 1806–25. His son, Harry, was born in 1814 but from the age of six suffered increasingly from bilious attacks, headaches and a squint; he died in 1823. Tremayne sought out the best medical advice whether he was in London or the West Country. His travels were often interrupted by Harry’s frequent indisposition. While Tremayne questioned the physicians about their diagnosis and treatments, he invariably followed their advice. Nonetheless, he graphically expressed the pain he experienced as he closely observed his son suffer, apparently as much from the treatments as from the disease itself.

Davies Gilbert (1767–1840) FRS sets out to record the development of his son, Charles (1810–13). Regular reports of his progress include readings of his son’s weight; 17 lbs at 21 weeks old giving a growth rate “of an Ounce a day”. Apparently in good health for most of his short life, Charles’s acute abdominal disorder and sudden demise shocked his father greatly. He even …

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