January 1967

Dr. Samuel Johnson's Emphysema

Author Affiliations


From the Philadelphia General Hospital and Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia.

Arch Intern Med. 1967;119(1):98-105. doi:10.1001/archinte.1967.00290190146015

Detailed descriptions of diseases in the 18th century are relatively rare. Even more uncommon are descriptions of the medical disorders that have harassed the famous. Samuel Johnson's medical history is unique in both of these respects. His medical history, particularly his pulmonary disorder, has been preserved for us in minute detail in various documents. Although the French physician Laennec is credited with the first description of pulmonary emphysema, Samuel Johnson's clinical history gives us a vivid clinical description of this disorder. The purpose of this paper is to show that Samuel Johnson, like so many of his fellow countrymen, developed pulmonary emphysema following repeated attacks of bronchitis for over 20 years. Evidence is also presented to substantiate the proposition that the plate of emphysema (Figure) in Matthew Baillie's atlas 1 is from a specimen taken at Johnson's autopsy. Although the subject of Johnson's emphysema and the plate in Baillie's atlas

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