Medicine Analysis Project

Many diseases that emerged in the 19th century included cholera, yellow fever, typhus, smallpox, and many more. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that weak medical practices became outdated. Before these breakthroughs there was only a basic understanding, which furthermore, commercialized the industry by selling medications with little to know regulation utilizing public fear and desperation. Many campaigns and ads sold the idea of “bad blood” being the cause as these medications were claimed to generate new blood and purify the body. Obviously, we know this is not real science but then, it was all the people knew and believed in regards to infectious diseases that were on a constant rise in the 1900s.

Medical Terminology

Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills:

Doan’s Kidney Pills

Data Analysis

From this data, I was able to learn and infer a couple of different things. The first thing that stood out to me was the amount of times the advertisements for these “miracle pills” would come up throughout the Egyptian Gazette. For example, when looking at instances of Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills, in 1905 there were only 16 occurrences of the advertisement. In 1906, that number increased slightly to 19 instances. Then, in 1907, the number skyrocketed to 45 different instances of that advertisement throughout the year in the Egyptian Gazette. When looking Doan’s Kidney Pills, a similar jump can be observed in the Egyptian Gazette. In 1905, 11 instances were recorded, in 1906 12 instances were recorded, and in 1907 the number shot through the roof. This clearly goes to show that the success surrounding these pills was flourishing as much more money was able to be put towards advertising following what I believe was a good year or two of selling their product. I also believe that this is due to this relatively new method of advertising which implemented personal testimonials to sell the product.

Other patterns that I observed from this data was regarding exactly why many of these terms decreased in frequency over the three year time span. I believe after looking at the data and taking a detailed look into what types of treatments that the pills were offering that as medicine became slightly more advanced over this time period, these advertisements began to vouch for treating less and less serious ailments. They instead appear to move towards more general symptoms, the primary one being pain. These advertisements saw an increase in the prevalence of “pain” as pain can be associated with various illnesses, allowing them to generalize to more diseases without distinctly claiming to cure one or the other. As actual treatments for certain illnesses became available, these “miracle pills” began to advertise less towards specific ones and more for general symptoms.

Another example of this move towards a better understanding of modern medicine can be seen in the word “blood”. I observed a decrease in the word blood within both advertisements, primarily because medicine was becoming more advanced as actual understanding of the body and pathogens slightly deepened. It was a common misconception that many ailments were caused by an impurity in the blood, and that a way to get new blood was a way to prevent further illnesses. These pills claimed to give “new blood” to the user, although this logic is clearly flawed by today’s understanding. As the understanding of pathology increased during this time period, we can also see a decrease in the word “blood” coming up in the newspaper, leading me to believe that this assumption of blood impurities became less prevalent as other more accurate explanations for illnesses arose.

?As for the application of these results to the group project, it ties in strongly with the other topics in the sense that we are able to apply these results to the work of the other topics within this project. For example, by looking at prevalence of words in advertisements, we can infer that certain ailments that are commonly found within the miracle pill advertisements likely also are symptoms of larger diseases that medical schools and hospitals are dealing with. We are able to get a sense for what is affecting the larger population and tie this in by looking at the proper ways that these illnesses and symptoms are being treated.

Medical Schools and the Diseases Found

The correlation between the location of medical schools and hospitals with the diseases that were being researched at these medical facilities. By finding if these diseases were prevalent in certain areas, it may be concluded that the disease was being researched at a prominent medical institution. The first disease found was Tropical Disease which is mentioned in the Gazette four times. Three of these times were cases within Cairo and the last one was found within Sudan. While this data is not enough to say there was an epidemic, it may be enough to deduce that these areas were experiencing hardships from this disease. The lack of knowledge about this disease stemmed from fear of the collapsing British Empire. One gave a fearful message that the Tropical Disease would lead to the death of the British Empire if it was not completely eradicated. The article then called for the Kasr-el-Ainy and other medical schools to try and find a cure to this disease. There was only one occurrence of the disease within Sudan at the Gordon College Laboratories,but that is only to talk about trying to find a cure for the animals in that area. It can be seen by the number of times this disease was mentioned to be in Cairo that this disease was mainly affecting that area during the period of 1905-1906. Also, with the article blatantly warning the public of London about how the disease would cause extreme harm to the British Empire from those who were in Cairo, it can be shown that the disease was mainly affecting this region in particular.

Another disease that appeared in the newspaper was trypanosomiasis. This disease was mainly found within Sudan, but upon further inspection it was shown that this disease only stemmed from another disease called sleeping sickness. We used the x-path queries below to research more about sleeping sickness in Sudan and at Gordon College. Sleeping sickness was the main disease that was prevalent since there are 17 occurrences of the term within the newspaper. This disease was being researched by the Gordon College Laboratories in Sudan, but there were articles explaining how the disease was killing off livestock and people within the area of Sudan.Upon further inspection, we wanted to see if there would be a link between the Kasr-el-Ainy and Cairo. Both of queries yielded no results for either which could mean that the disease was only centralized to Sudan or that a cure was found before it was able to spread to elsewhere. I was able to find one outside resource Elimination of Sleeping Sickness that talked about how political and social conflict within Sudan could lead to a cure for sleeping sickness to be halted. It was a very interesting to see how these disease is still affecting those in Sudan for over 100 years. Also, this article gave me an insight into how modern medicine is now begin used to treat early disease from the 1900s that have caused much harm an area. The graphs for the analysis of sleeping sickness in Sudan.

-//div[@type="item"][matches(., "Kasr-el-Ainy", "i")] -//div[@type="item"][matches(., "Cairo", "i")] -//div[@type="item"][matches(., "Sudan", "i")] -//div[@type="item"][matches(., "Gordon College", "i")]


A disease that appeared in the newspaper was the Bubonic Plague or also known as the Third Pandemic. The earliest records of the Bubonic Plague within The Egyptian Gazette was found on January second of 1905. However, according to history, the first outbreaks of the plague in Egypt took place back in April of 1899 after a long time of disease-free ( Plague In Egypt ). The plague has persisted in Egypt each year since 1899 arriving from the trade ports. With that said, that means that the cities closest to the ports must be the ones most affected by it. After gathering the following data through the Egyptian Gazette and inputting it into Tableau, this statement proved to be correct.

As shown above, the city that was most frequently affected by the Bubonic Plague was Alexandria. Following Alexandria was Suez, which also has a huge trade port that connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Egyptian Gazette newspaper explained another possibility of why this might be the case. “It is the only town with a drainage system, and many of the drains are in a very dilapidated condition and infested with rats. This may be one of the reasons which account for the persistence of the disease at Alexandria” (1906-07-27.xml).

There was a considerable diminution in the number of cases of plague in Egypt as in the year of 1905. However, the following year, in 1906, the plague spread and the number of cases severely increased. In comparison with 1904, there was a considerable diminution in the number of cases of plague in Egypt as in the year of 1905. However, the following year, 1906, the plague spread and the number of cases severely increased.

In regards to preventing the spread of this plague, “Clayton Gas” was used in the early 1900s. It destroyed not only rats and vermin, but also the parasites on them and sterilized the eggs of insects as well. Since no cures were discovered until 20 years later, preventions taken towards infected humans were unsuccessful. An important thing to notice is that the infected rat is the cause of the disease remaining endemic in a town, but the epidemic form of the disease is caused by the infected human being.

Graph shows how mentions of ad have no correlation to mentions of cholera throughout

Only one advertisement claims to remedy cholera, diarrhea, colic, and dysentery, and that product is Dr. J. Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne. Surprisingly enough, the product is only advertised fourteen times over the three years or so of the newspaper that has been encoded. Further research into Chlorodyne revealed that the medication was an effective treatment for these diseases as well as other ailments not listed in the advertisements. The reasoning behind its effectiveness were the active ingredients being opiates and marijuana (McCabe, 1979) . Interestingly enough this advertisement that claims to remedy cholera do not seem to have any correlation to when cholera was mentioned more frequently in the newspaper, even as fears of cholera began to spread within Egypt.

In an editorial by Charles McCabe written in 1979, he recalls the days when Dr. J. Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne was available everywhere. McCabe described the potion as “a staple of British medicine cabinets since 1848.” He further states that chlorodyne took “care of the most persistent of the traveler’s and imperialist complaints, dysentery of one kind or another. It [was] also good for hangovers. It subdues the screaming angst. It is one of the best sleeping potions I know.” He further states that the modern version of chlorodyne, which they now call “J. Collis Browne’s Mixture” is not as effective as the older version. The original concoction was able to “combat ‘colds, coughs, influenza, diarrhea, stomach chills, cholic…” etc. the list goes on and on.

As mentioned before, this advertisement was not run many times over the course of our repository. And this is strange being that Charles McCabes testimony, although from 1979, was very convincing of how well this product works in treating an assortment of ailments. Maybe the advertising budget in Alexandria, Egypt at the time was not much, and that’s why the ad was not widely published. According to McCabe, this medicine was widely published throughout British newspapers.

Another example of an ongoing disease plaguing both Egypt and Europe during this time period was tuberculosis. At the beginning of the 19th century treatments consisted of the encouragement of adopting a new lifestyle. Hiking, eating fruits and vegetables, and fresh air were very common examples of this change in “bad living”. As this became outdated, the development of sanatoriums became more acceptable. Due to the lack of technology and understanding of immunology, antibiotics and vaccinations had not yet been invented, therefore, bed rest in a sanatorium was really the only option for the individuals infected.

This bar graph displays the frequency of tuberculosis mentioned within the Egyptian Gazette, primarily in the local and general section. Ads such as Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People and Puruna feature other disorders and medical conflicts. These include paralysis, rheumatism, and ladies’ complaints. Oddly, however, is the neglect to mention tuberculosis, the infamous “white plague”. Clearly this is a little puzzling seeing how tuberculosis was in many local and general headlines as a deadly concern of the population. This confirms the idea that medical advances were very limited at this time in Egypt and Europe as they were never featured in pill ads that claimed to be the cure-all, miraculously relieving a patient in a matter of days. Many methods and trials probably failed or were not worth mentioning in the Gazette since readers might have been more interested in hearing about success stories rather than failed attempts at one.


Disease and sickness was a hot topic during this time of uncertainty and doubt, paving the way for big time advertisers to market their ideas and sell an abundance of pill bottles of color- coated candy that claimed to cure everything when in reality, they couldn’t cure a headache. But much of what was not understood during this time can be directly related to what lead to the later understanding of medicine and immunology that we possess today.

Tryfon Gerasimos Theophilopoulos

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in fall 2019.