14 December 2015

Blast from the past

From Time Magazine

Monday, Jan. 01, 1945

People like Dickens' Mrs. Gummidge, who claim they "feel more than other people do," will have a chance to prove it in the future. For Cleveland's Dr. Lorand Julius Bela Gluzek has rigged up an efficient little machine called a dolorimeter, which measures pain in grams. It would have made the Marquis de Sade very happy. Just put the victim's leg on the leg rest, put the pressure inductor on his shin bone and pump up the pressure until it hurts. That indicates the threshold at which pain begins (and the victim—however Spartan—is supposed to yell). The threshold varies from 500 (for the Gummidge type) to 2,700 grams, depending on the person's nervous system.

The dolorimeter is also used on people who already have a pain. It can measure pain anywhere in the body—Marat's itch, Prometheus' pecked liver and Job's ulcers would have been equally fair game. The machine is applied to the patient's leg and the squeeze increased beyond the threshold, up & up until the agonized shin bone makes the patient forget his neuralgia or whatever was hurting him. A reading at that point gauges the severity of the neuralgia, the sores or the itch. By comparing the first day's pain intensity with successive days' recordings, the progress of the complaint can be charted. According to last week's Modern Medicine, Dr. Gluzek (who apparently thinks that all pigs caught under a gate squeal equally loud) has made 16,000 readings, finds his dolorimeter accurate in 97% of the pains measured.