Campbell Cuisine *or* The Most Disgusting Blog Post We’ll Ever Make™

Dr. William Beaumont

We thought we should save this for Octo­ber since this sto­ry has a cer­tain creepy-crawly ele­ment to it, but yes­ter­day back in 1833 the book that out­lined said creepy-crawly research was pub­lished, so we want­ed to keep this time­ly. That and it was just too good to sit on for anoth­er few weeks.

In Exper­i­ments and Obser­va­tions on the Gas­tric Juice, and the Phys­i­ol­o­gy of Diges­tion, Dr. William Beau­mont — the “Father of Gas­tric Phys­i­ol­o­gy” — out­lined the results of years’ worth of stom­ach exper­i­ments per­formed on Alex­is St. Mar­tin. St. Mar­tin worked for the Amer­i­can Fur Com­pa­ny on Mack­inac Island, and he  suf­fered a mus­ket wound that injured his ribs and stom­ach. He was brought to see Dr. Beau­mont, an Army doc­tor at Fort Mack­inac. He treat­ed St. Mar­tin, but did not believe he would sur­vive. He mirac­u­lous­ly lived BUT — and here comes the creepy-crawly part — he had a per­ma­nent hole in his stom­ach. Smar­ty med­ical types call this a fis­tu­la.

Poor St. Mar­tin could­n’t work for the Amer­i­can Fur Com­pa­ny any­more, so Dr. Beau­mont (who has a high school and a street in St. Louis named after him) hired him as a handy­man. Here’s the oth­er creepy-crawly (but sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly jus­ti­fied!) part of the sto­ry: It was dur­ing this peri­od that Dr. Beau­mont per­formed exper­i­ments on St. Mar­t­in’s stom­ach and the food therein.

This is *exact­ly* what you think it is: one of Beau­mon­t’s draw­ings of St. Mar­t­in’s stom­ach fistula.

Beau­mont would drop a piece of food into his stom­ach and check it lat­er to see the how diges­tion had pro­gressed, or some­times he would remove stom­ach acid and let it get to work on a sam­ple of food in a cup. What did he learn? Our stom­ach chem­i­cals do the bulk of the work of digest­ing our food, more so than the phys­i­cal con­trac­tions of the stomach.

Beau­mont end­ed up in St. Louis in 1835 and served as a doc­tor at Jef­fer­son Bar­racks. By this time, he had part­ed ways with St. Mar­tin. Though he declined repeat­ed offers, Dr. Beau­mont had always encour­aged him and his fam­i­ly to move to St. Louis. Still, through­out his life, St. Mar­tin would vis­it Dr. Beau­mont for fur­ther experimentation.

If you can han­dle it, the first chap­ter of the book is fas­ci­nat­ing, and it talks about the ini­tial wound, Beau­mon­t’s attempts to close the hole, and St. Mar­t­in’s life (which was sur­pris­ing­ly nor­mal). Take a look — if you dare — here.