JF Ptak Science Books Post 2694
I was strolling through a year's issue of a somewhat obscure science journal (Bulletin des Sciences par la Societe Philomatique de Paris), grazing around looking for something significant. Quite a bit of the journal is devoted to abstracts of longer articles in the more well-known journals, though there are definitely some original articles to the Bulletin that are original. In any event I found some work by Fourier, Poisson, Biot, Laplace, and some others, but they were all abstracts of papers published weeks or months earlier (which makes it a very rapid distributor for the times), and then popped into a short piece about Berzelius' discovery of "une nouvelle substance simple..." called Selenium, which was pretty cool, as the original announcement seems to have been just weeks earlier. And then there was a very short notice on the discovery of lithium. and then again, right in a row, was a curious-sounding thing that sounded not-quite-common: "Note sur l'emploi de quelques sels de morphine comme medicamens". This was written by a founding father of experimental physiology and a great pharmacological agent named Francois Magendie, and I wondered why they would be devoting space like this to an application of morphine. It turns out morphine had been discovered in 1805, but that its medical application hadn't been made until...M. Magendie, in 1818, and this was him reporting his findings on the first use of morphine to treat pain in a patient. (In this case, a young woman, in terrible pain, and desperate for sleep.) Only about 1000 words long, but no doubt this contribution had a very wide reception. It is interesting to go into one of these volumes without expectations, and then stumble upon something like this.
It should be pointed out that it took only four years for the first person to be convicted of using morphine to kill someone (1822, Dr. Edne Castaing), though the drug in the decade or so after that became a popular instrument of murderers. By 1831 morphine had taken on enough of a common social role as to be included in Balac's devil's list of stuff that kept him to busy to think of self-amusement ("...invention of powder, the discovery of the new world, printing, Jesuits, lottery, morphine acetate, gambling houses and Cholera-morbus...", found in his novella, La Comedia du Diable (in which the lord of the underworld invites 32,000 of the damned to a dinner party no one would soon forget).