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The Art of JAMA |

Journey in Thick Wood: Childhood Henry Norman Bethune

Preeti N. Malani, MD, MSJ1; Richard L. Prager, MD2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor; Associate Editor, JAMA
2Department of Cardiac Surgery, Frankel Cardiovascular Center; University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor
JAMA. 2014;312(14):1380-1382. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13198.
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Infection due to Mycobacterium tuberculosis has been recognized since antiquity. Mycobacterial DNA has been identified in Egyptian mummies dating back to 3000 bce. Hippocrates described tuberculosis or “phthisis” as a great plague for mankind—and a challenge for physicians. The disease later became epidemic among the urban poor during the 19th century, with industrialization, poverty, overcrowding, and poor nutrition contributing to the sharp rise in cases. Closed windows in cool climates also facilitated person-to-person spread of the bacterium first described by Robert Heinrich Koch in 1882. An estimated 20% of all deaths in Europe were secondary to tuberculosis between the late 1800s and 1930s. Although the incidence of tuberculosis has dropped dramatically, the disease remains a leading cause of infection-related death worldwide, with 1.3 million deaths attributed to tuberculosis in 2012.

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Journey in Thick Wood: Childhood (from TheT.B.’s Progress, a Drama in One Act and Nine Peaceful Scenes) (detail).

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Henry Norman Behtune (1890-1939), Journey in Thick Wood: Childhood (from The T.B.’s Progress, a Drama in One Act and Nine Peaceful Scenes). 1927, Canadian. Oil pastels and chalk crayons on paper. Images courtesy of the Department of Cardiac Surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Tapestry, 1975, Chinese. 167.6 × 198.1 cm. Woodward Bio-Medical Library, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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