The names of three physicians are associated intimately with the early history of the Pacific Northwest: John McLoughlin, William Tolmie, and John Sebastian Helmcken. All worked for the Hudson's Bay Company. All are remembered today because of their political rather than their medical contributions.
McLoughlin's sphere of influence encompassed what is now Oregon; he is certainly the best known of the trio. Contemporaneously, Tolmie and Helmcken played their roles in British Columbia, most influentially in the mid-19th century. Fortunately, the Victorians were dedicated journal-writers. Tolmie's journal has been published,1 and now we have Helmcken's reminiscences to delineate his part in the founding of Victoria and the entry of British Columbia into the Dominion of Canada.
Reminiscences and journals carry a great risk for their authors. Because these writings are so revealing, unflattering facets of personality sometimes emerge. Happily for his reputation, Helmcken shines through his writings as a kindly
Roland CG. The Reminiscences of Doctor John Sebastian Helmcken. JAMA. 1977;237(18):1988. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270450078038
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