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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Wondering What Uncle James Died From?

Death registers can be a treasure trove of information. Having been raised by a nurse, I am always fascinated by the terms  used for cause of death. It helps me brush up on my Latin (does anyone even speak that anymore?) I have a great great uncle who died of Phthisis. This one stumped me.

I recently came across this website for Archaic Medical Terms. I learned that Phthisis is actually a fancy name for Tuberculosis! Here are the definitions from the website:

  • Pulmonary consumption. It is known by emaciation, debility, cough, hectic fever, and purulent expectoration. [Hooper1843]
  • Consumption; pulmonary consumption, or decline; emaciation of the body, and debility, attended with a cough, hectic fever, and generally purulent expectoration. It is also termed marasmus, tabes pulmonalis, etc. [Hoblyn1855]
  • In a general sense, progressive emaciation. It is usually, however, restricted to phthisis pulmonalis. [Dunglison1874]
  • Pulmonary consumption, characterized by emaciation, debility, cough, hectic fever, and purulent expectoration. [Thomas1875]
  • Wasting of the frame. [Cleaveland1886]
  • A term formerly applied (like Consumption ) to the disease of the lung now known as Tuberculosis. [Britannica1911]
  • A wasting or consumption of the tissues. The term was formerly applied to many wasting diseases, but is now usually restricted to pulmonary phthisis, or Consumption. [Webster1913]
  • Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Involving the lungs with progressive wasting of the body. [Wordnet]
  • Phthisis is an archaic name for tuberculosis. [Medicinenet]
Not particuarly surprising then that James died of TB given the time frame we are looking at. The hunt for his cause of death was a little bit of a let down, but the find of the website made up for it! Here's the link so you can have a look at what ailed your ancestor: http://www.antiquusmorbus.com/English/EnglishA.htm

Happy Hunting!

1 comment:

  1. Often noted also as "phthisis pulmonala", and I;ve also come across it as "decline".

    I know one person who speaks Latin. But he talks to himself all the time, as no-one else does!