Dr. Beaumont

Dr. William Beaumont William_Beaumont_painting

wasn’t really from Michigan, he was from Connecticut but had joined the Army.  He was stationed at Fort Mackinac during the fur trading years.  One of the trappers was accidentally shot in the stomach and the wound did not heal properly.  Instead, it healed ‘open’.  This allowed Dr. Beaumont to look inside the body and watch what was happening in the stomach.  Not my cup of tea, but then, I’m not a doctor.  Funny thing, when I was a kid, every school kid learned about this guy in elementary school as part of “Michigan History”.  Since he and George A. Custer are the only two things I seem to remember about Michigan history (oh, and some guy named Henry Ford) I have to assume not much has happened here.  (Either that or I was out sick a lot that year…not sure)

Here’s more about the good doctor from Wikipedia:

“From 1812 until 1815, Beaumont served as a surgeon’s mate in the Army during the War of 1812. After the war ended he started a private practice in Plattsburgh, New York, but by 1819 Beaumont had rejoined the Army as a surgeon. He was assigned a location at Fort Mackinac. Beaumont took a leave in 1821, and married Deborah Green Platt in Plattsburgh, before returning to his post. Deborah was divorced from Nathaniel Platt, whose uncle Zephaniah Platt founded Plattsburgh after the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

On June 6, 1822, an employee of the American Fur Company on Mackinac Island, named Alexis St. Martin, was accidentally shot in the stomach by a discharge of a shotgun loaded with a buck shot from close range that injured his ribs and his stomach. Dr. Beaumont treated his wound, but expected St. Martin to die from his injuries. Despite this dire prediction, St. Martin survived – but with a hole, orfistula, in his stomach that never fully healed. Unable to continue work for the American Fur Company, he was hired as a handyman by Dr. Beaumont.

By August 1825, Beaumont had been relocated to Fort Niagara in New York, and Alexis St. Martin had come with him. Beaumont recognized that he had in St. Martin an unusual opportunity to observe digestive processes. Dr. Beaumont began to perform experiments on digestion using the stomach of St. Martin. Most of the experiments were conducted by tying a piece of food to a string and inserting it through the hole into St. Martin’s stomach. Every few hours, Beaumont would remove the food and observe how well it had been digested. Beaumont also extracted a sample of gastric acid from St. Martin’s stomach for analysis.”

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