05. tbl. 97. árg. 2011

Dissemination of medical knowledge to the public in Iceland by a country doctor 1782-1834

Jón Pétursson læknir og ritverk hans II

Jón Pétursson (1733-1801) was an apprentice af the first Chief Medical Officer of Iceland. In 1765 Pétursson enrolled in the Medical Faculty at the University of Copenhagen. In 1769 with the Faculties approval he published a monograph on the so called Icelandic Scurvy. In 1770-71 Pétursson served as ship's surgeon in the Royal Danish Navy on an expedition to the Mediterranean. In 1772-1775 he served as an assistant to the Chief Medical Officer and the newly appointed apothecary, who shared premises at Nes, Reykjavík. In 1775 he was appointed surgeon (chirurgeon) to the Northern District. Pétursson wrote two medical book while serving his district, both being prepared now for republication.   

A. The Lækningabók fyrir almúga (Leechbook for common people) published posthumously 1834, edited by Sveinn Pálsson surgeon. It was undoubtedly inspired by the Swiss physician Tissot and his book Avis au peuple sur sa santé ou traité des maladies plus fréquentes 1761.

B. A treatise on rheumatism or dirorder of the joints (Stutt ágrip um iktsýki edur lidaveiki, 1782). In Scand J Rheumatol 1996: 25; 134-7 the authors point out that Péturssons description of what he calls arthritis vaga encompasses these essential features: It is common, chronic, destructive, inflammatory polyarthritis, sometimes with systemic manifestations. It affects peope of all ages and has a female preponderance. They state that only rheumatoid arthritis fulfills these specifications. They conclude that medical history should give Pétursson credit for the first definite description of rheumatoid arthritis.

Örn Bjarnason

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