Dipping into old Cape autopsies Part 2

In December 1920 there is a confident new handwriting in the PM book, and the cases are initialled GBB. George Bertram Bartlett was the second appointed professor of pathology at the University of Cape Town, the first to actually take up the job. It appears he hit the ground running, performing 7 autopsies before the year was out.

Prof GB Bartlett’s copperplate
Prof GB Bartlett’s copperplate

A summary of the primary findings for the 12 medical autopsies of 1920:

Infections:  Disseminated tuberculosis (two cases), bacterial endocarditis, septicaemia with multiple lung abscesses, dysentery, bacterial meningitis (secondary to an ear infection?).
Neoplasms: A kidney tumour, a pancreatic tumour, carcinoma of stomach (a gastrostomy had been performed by Professor Saint, first professor of surgery at UCT).
Other: Nephritis with pulmonary oedema, perforated gastric ulcer, pulmonary embolus (following a fractured tibia and fibula, which was plated – see original notes above).

It is not a profound observation, but just sad to think that deaths could have been avoided had there been effective antibiotics available.

Today, we still hold two preserved specimens from these twelve cases, the earliest specimens in our pathology teaching collection – X:iii:1 Hydrocoele of the tunica vaginalis (an incidental finding) and XV:iv:2 Carcinoma of the stomach .

X_III_1_crop  xv_iv_2_r

The following year autopsies rose to 58, from which 13 specimens are preserved.

Footnote

GBB was Cambridge educated. That he was new to South Africa is evident in the notes for his first case, described as “a young negro”. By 1921 race is quite frequently recorded by GBB, now using the local terms “native”, “coloured”, “Malay”, “white” or “European”.

And other examples from the 1920's, when doctors could still write
Some other pages from the 1920’s, proving that doctors could once write