1. Rheumatism History
2. Philadelphia Medical Examiner
3. 19th Century Medical Research
4. Nathan Chapman Medicine
5. Rheumatism Treatments


The 19th century marked a period of profound insights and discoveries within the medical field. An article entitled “Rheumatismus, or Rheumatism,” published in the Medical Examiner (Philadelphia, Pa.) in 1838, stands as a noteworthy testament to the evolving understanding of rheumatic conditions during this era. Authored by Professor N. Chapman – a prominent figure in medical scholarship – this work not only reflects the medical sentiments of the time but also underlines a legacy of intellectual curiosity that persists in today’s rheumatological research. In this comprehensive article, we revisit Professor Chapman’s seminal treatise to explore its historical significance, the medical perceptions of rheumatism in the 19th century, and its enduring relevance to modern medicine.

Historical Context

In the early to mid-19th century, the United States, particularly the city of Philadelphia, was renowned for its medical institutions and scholarly contributions. As the Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic at the University of Pennsylvania, Nathan Chapman was an authoritative voice in medical education and practice. His works, such as the piece on rheumatism published on May 9, 1838, in the Medical Examiner (Philadelphia, Pa.), stood as pivotal contributions to the medical literature of the time.

The 1838 Article on Rheumatism

In his article, Professor Chapman sought to elucidate the nature of rheumatism, a term that, in the modern context, includes various rheumatic diseases and conditions affecting the joints and connective tissues. The treatise, subtitled “Rheumatismus,” was a detailed analysis that spanned several pages—from pages 153 to 155, to be exact.

At the heart of Chapman’s exploration was the quest to discern the etiology and effective treatments for rheumatism. His perspective was molded by the prevailing medical theories and empirical observations of his day. Chapman’s approach to describing the condition signaled an attempt to bridge traditional remedies with the emergent scientific methodologies that characterized the medical enlightenment of the 19th century.

The publication, identified by the PubMed Central reference number PMC10212336 and DOI currently not available, remains a significant historical document for researchers and historians seeking to understand the evolution of medical thought around rheumatic diseases.

Rheumatism in the 19th Century

Rheumatism in the 1830s was a catch-all term that encompassed various symptoms and conditions related to joint pain and inflammation. The contemporary understanding of rheumatism was limited, and the medical community had yet to make the nuanced distinctions between different forms of rheumatic diseases that are recognized today.

Chapman and his contemporaries grappled with a multitude of theories regarding the origins of rheumatism – from climatic influences to hereditary factors. Additionally, ‘humoral theory,’ a long-standing belief that health was determined by the balance of bodily fluids or ‘humors,’ still held sway among some practitioners, influencing the approach to treatment and prevention.

Chapman’s Contribution to Medical Knowledge

Professor Chapman’s work epitomized the efforts of 19th-century medical professionals to systematize and expand their understanding through empirical observation and reasoned hypotheses. While his conclusions and methodologies are undoubtedly dated when viewed through a modern lens, they represent stepping stones in the shifting landscape of medical science.

His article stood out for its rigorous attempt to categorize symptoms and differentiate rheumatism from other conditions with similar presentations. Furthermore, Chapman’s advocacy for a tailored approach to treatment, considering the individual patient’s circumstances and constitution, echoes the patient-centered care models that are lauded in contemporary medical practice.

Influence and Legacy

The intellectual rigor of Chapman’s oeuvre did not simply languish in the past; it inspired subsequent generations of medical professionals. As the science of rheumatology progressed, researchers built upon the foundations laid by Chapman and his peers, ultimately leading to our current understanding of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and many others – each with their distinct pathophysiology and treatment protocols.

Medical Examiner: A Platform for Medical Scholarship

The Medical Examiner, the journal in which Chapman’s article was featured, played a significant role as a medium for the scholarly exchange. Founded in the early 19th century, the journal provided a platform for physicians like Chapman to disseminate their insights, debate concepts, and refine medical knowledge through peer engagement. It was a vehicle for professional discourse and reflection, much like the scientific journals of today.

Articles and Research Methodologies of The Time

When analyzing Chapman’s 1838 article, it is important to consider the research methodologies available at the time. The reliance on case studies, expert opinion, and observational analyses were prevalent in the absence of advanced diagnostic tools or randomized controlled trials. This limitation underscores the ingenuity required by early physicians to make strides in uncharted medical territory.

Continued Relevance of Historical Medical Research

Delving into historical medical literature, such as Chapman’s study on rheumatism, offers more than just a glimpse into the past. It encourages a deeper appreciation for the continuous journey of medical advancement. Identifying past misconceptions and appreciating the iterative process that refines knowledge provides context for today’s scientific endeavors and can also inspire humility and diligence in ongoing research.


Reflecting on the historical document “Rheumatismus, or Rheumatism,” authored by Professor N. Chapman in 1838, we not only pay homage to the early efforts of understanding rheumatic conditions but also recognize the enduring impact of such foundational work on contemporary medical practice. As we continue to combat rheumatic diseases with cutting-edge treatments and technology, it is invaluable to remember the scholarly fortitude of predecessors like Chapman—whose contributions set the stage for the medical achievements of subsequent centuries.

The thorough examination of Chapman’s article does not merely serve a historical curiosity; it is a fundamental exercise in acknowledging the underpinnings of our current medical systems—a reminder of the indebtedness we owe to the dedicated minds of the medical past.


1. Chapman, N. (1838). Rheumatismus, or Rheumatism. Medical Examiner (Philadelphia, Pa.), 1(10), 153-155. Retrieved from PubMed Central (PMC10212336).

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4. Rosenberg, C. E. (1979). The Therapeutic Revolution: Medicine, Meaning, and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America. In Morris J. Vogel & Charles E. Rosenberg (Eds.), The Therapeutic Revolution: Essays in the Social History of American Medicine. University of Pennsylvania Press.

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