1. Cynanche Laryngea
2. Acute Laryngitis
3. Medical History
4. 19th Century Medicine
5. Philadelphia Medical Examiner

In the bustling metropolis of Philadelphia, echoes of a long-gone era emerge from the pages of history as we sieve through medical journals that have witnessed the evolution of healthcare practices. With contemporary eyes, we revisit an article published on February 14, 1838, in the ‘Medical Examiner,’ a notable journal of the time. This article, penned by none other than Nathaniel Chapman, a Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic at the University of Pennsylvania, provides a fascinating glimpse into the medical understanding and treatment of Cynanche Laryngea, known today as Acute Laryngitis.

The extensive research piece, recently spotlighted due to its publication anniversary and newly available digital archives, takes us back almost two centuries to when medical science was in the midst of substantial transition. Digital Object Identifier (DOI): ppublish 38118494, offers modern-day researchers and medical enthusiasts a chance to delve into the depths of historic medical knowledge and practices.

Nathaniel Chapman’s exhaustive exploration covers the then presentation, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment methods of Acute Laryngitis. The paper, which spans from pages 57 to 60 in the 1838’s volume of the ‘Medical Examiner (Philadelphia, Pa.)’, is a testament to the meticulous clinical observations and therapeutic approaches of the era (PMC10212317). Chapman’s work reflects a critical time in medical history when the foundations of contemporary medicine were being laid with each meticulous record and experimental treatment.

In his publication, Chapman provides a detailed account of the symptoms and physical manifestations of Cynanche Laryngea. His description includes the recognizable hoarseness, difficulty breathing, and severe pain that made this condition both an urgent medical matter and an ailment that laid bare the limitations of 19th-century medicine. He discusses the potential for escalated conditions, including suffocation and highlights the importance of a timely and accurate diagnosis.

Chapman, renowned in his time, discusses treatment methods that were typical of the period, some of which may seem archaic by today’s standards. Bloodletting, blistering agents, and mercury were commonly employed strategies to combat the inflammation believed to cause the life-threatening symptoms of Cynanche Laryngea. He delves into the methodology and reasoning behind such treatments, providing a window into the thought processes that drove medical practice in the early 19th century.

Though Chapman’s paper may appear rudimentary compared to today’s advanced medical research and practices, it remains invaluable for understanding the progression of medical science. It also highlights the endurance and adaptability of certain medical concepts that have withstood the test of time, albeit with significant advancements and modifications.

In examining Chapman’s article and his contributions to medical science, it is critical to contextualize his work within the scientific knowledge and societal beliefs of his time. During this era, the medical community grappled with diseases without the insights provided by germ theory or advanced imaging technologies. The practice of medicine was as much art as it was a fledgling science, with clinical acumen being a standout skill among esteemed physicians like Chapman.

Now, centuries later, medical professionals can appreciate how Chapman’s descriptions and case management relate to the complexities of Acute Laryngitis as understood today. While the treatments have evolved dramatically with the advent of antibiotics, antivirals, steroids, and supportive care, the core clinical challenges of airway management and inflammation control bear remarkable parallels with the past.

To honor the 185th anniversary of Chapman’s publication, it is paramount to acknowledge the leaps and strides made since his elucidation of Cynanche Laryngea. From crude and painful interventions, the modern medical field offers targeted, evidence-based, and patient-centered therapies. Education and research continue to drive the relentless pursuit of knowledge that once spurred practitioners like Chapman to meticulously document and theorize for the betterment of patient care.

As scholars and practitioners reflect on the historical context of Chapman’s work, they can draw inspiration from his dedication and rigor. This revisit not only honors a historical piece of medical documentation but also reminds the contemporary community of the diligence required to advance the field. It is a call to remain vigilant, compassionate, and innovative—the very traits embodied by a 19th-century physician published in a Philadelphia medical journal.


1. Chapman, N. (1838) ‘Cynanche Laryngea, or Acute Laryngitis,’ Medical Examiner (Philadelphia, Pa.), pp. 57-60. [PMC10212317] 2. Truax, Charles L. The Physicians of Philadelphia, The growth of the practice of medicine, F.A. Davis, 1888.
3. Wilson, L. G. (1966). History of Medicine and Science: New Issues and Methods. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 21(1), 1–6.
4. Maclachlan, J. H. (1946). The Medical Practitioner in Nineteenth Century England: a Study of his Background and his Role in Society. The British Medical Journal, 2(4474), 570–572.
5. Brandt, L. A., & Gardner, M. (2000). Antecedents of Modern Medicine: Bloodletting. The American Journal of Medicine, 109(5), 410–411.