Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 243

Just when you thought your brain could unwind on a Friday, you realise that it would rather be challenged with some good old fashioned medical trivia FFFF, introducing the Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 243

Question 1

Which family shares 4 Nobel prizes? A Nobel prize between wife and husband, followed by a second prize for the wife and a later prize to their daughter.

Reveal the funtabulous answer

The Curie family. Marie Curie was also the first female to receive the prize after her husband wrote a complaint about her being excluded from the 1903 prize.

1903 Physics Prize – Marie and Pierre Curie: The 1896 discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel inspired Marie and Pierre Curie to further investigate this phenomenon. They found that the mineral pitchblende was more radioactive than uranium and concluded that it must contain other radioactive substances. From it they managed to extract two previously unknown elements, polonium and radium, both more radioactive than uranium.

1911 Chemistry Prize – Marie Curie: After Marie and Pierre Curie first discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium, Marie continued to investigate their properties. In 1910 she successfully produced radium as a pure metal, which proved the new element’s existence beyond a doubt. She also documented the properties of the radioactive elements and their compounds leading the way for medical usage. [Reference]

Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, also won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Building on the work of Marie and Pierre Curie, who had isolated naturally occurring radioactive elements, she realised the alchemist’s dream of turning one element into another: creating radioactive nitrogen from boron, radioactive isotopes of phosphorus from aluminium, and silicon from magnesium.

Quite a family of over-achievers.

Question 2

Who first coined the term cirrhosis? Clue: you probably carry something he invented on your person at every shift.

Reveal the funtabulous answer

René Laennec (not only a one trick pony inventing the stethoscope in 1816).

Laennec gave cirrhosis its name from the Greek word kirrhos, meaning tawny yellow.

John Browne (1642-1700) and Matthew Baillie (1761-1823) had previously provided more detailed descriptions, but not provided a memorable name. This term first appeared in a footnote in 1819 in the first volume of his classic text ‘De l’auscultation médiate 1819; I; 368-369 – the term has survived despite the term being dropped from the footnote in it’s English translation in 1827.

He also coined the term Melanoma (from the Greek for black) in 1804 and published findings in 1806 [1806; II; 24-26]. He differentiated melanoma from black tuberculose lesions or carbon deposits in the lung and recognized that melanotic lesions in the lungs were the result of metastatic melanoma. Dupuytren took exception to Laennec’s work as it gave insufficient credit to himself leading to a bitter series of articles over the original ‘discovery’ of melanoma Dupuytron [1804; II; 13-24]

Question 3

Who has been acknowledged as the father of modern CPR?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Peter Josef Safar (1924 – 2003)

CPCR is for the person with a heart and brain too good to die.

Born in Austria of Jewish ancestry he managed to evade the Nazis as a young man and survived the tragic death of his young daughter from status asthmaticus. Despite such terrible trials he went on to give the world ‘the kiss of life‘ and became the acknowledged ‘Father of modern CPR’. [Reference]

On the occasion of his 70th birthday he was presented with a framed set of laws by his friends and colleagues. These laws were derived from the sayings of Peter Safar himself. They were titled ‘Peter’s Laws for the Navigation of Life‘ with the instructive subtitle ‘The Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive‘.

Question 4

What allows Moroccan fishermen to see better in the night?

Reveal the funtabulous answer


25 years ago, pharmacologist M. E. West of the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, noted that local fisherman who smoke cannabis or drink rum made with the leaves and stems of the plant had “an uncanny ability to see in the dark,” which enabled them to navigate their boats through coral reefs.

Russo et al heard a similar story of Moroccan fishermen and mountain dwellers.  A research team travelled to the Rif mountains in Morocco to investigate further. They gave a synthetic cannabinoid to one volunteer, and hashish to three more, then tested their sensitivity of their night vision before and after. [Reference]

Many theories have been hypothesised including dilation of the eye through to increased retinal to cortex signals but the current theory is cannabinoids act directly on the retinal cells enhancing their sensitivity in poor light settings. [Reference]

Question 5

What was the probable cause of the deadly disease afflicting Greek soldiers at the Battle of Troy?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Glanders, or pseudomonas mallei, caught from their horses

Glanders is a highly contagious and often fatal zoonotic disease primarily of solipeds such as horses, mules, and donkeys. It was first described by the Greeks in 450–425 BC and again by the Romans in 400–500 AD. Throughout history glanders has been known by other names including equinia, malleus, droes, and farcy. Glanders is primarily characterized by ulcerating lesions of the skin and mucous membranes. Solipeds are the natural reservoir of Burkholderia mallei. Donkeys are prone to develop acute forms of glanders while horses are more likely to develop chronic and latent diseases. [Reference]

Sound familiar? B. mallei evolved from B. pseudomallei (melioidosis). So may be the next time you are in Thailand or Northern Australia in the wet season you can tell your patient with melioidosis they have a connection with the Battle of Troy.

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Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five

Dr Mark Corden BSc, MBBS, FRACP. Paediatric Emergency Physician working in Northern Hospital, Melbourne. Loves medical history and trivia...and assumes everyone around him feels the same...| LinkedIn |

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