Thursday, May 22, 2014

THE DOCTOR'S BAG - DIG THOSE BULLETS OUT, DOC!



Experiments in bullet-proofing

By Keith Souter aka Clay More



In the Doctor's Bag this month I want to draw your attention to a little of the work of Dr George Emory Goodfellow, famously known as the surgeon to the gunfighters.  He was without doubt one of the most remarkable characters ever to practice medicine and surgery. He was a polymath, a man who would have made an impact anywhere, any time. He just happened to be practising as a doctor in Tombstone, Arizona during one of its most violent epochs.


Dr George Emory Goodfellow (1855-1910)

Among his many achievements, he was the first doctor to perform a laparotomy (the operation to open the abdomen) to treat abdominal gunshot wounds. He was the first surgeon to perform a perineal prostatectomy and he was an early advocate of aseptic surgery and of spinal anaesthesia. He was a geologist (his father was a mining engineer), an expert on Gila Monsters, a boxing champion in his youth and a man that you didn't cross (he carried and was prepared to use a concealed Italian poniard dagger).

He operated on Virgil Earp after an assassination attempt on him in the aftermath to the Gunfight at the OK Corral, he performed sterling innovative reconstructive surgery on the nose of his friend 
George Whitwell Parsons and he led an emergency relief operation to treat the injured after the  devastating Sonora earthquake of 1887.


For this he was called El Santo Doctor, the sainted doctor, by the people of Bavispe and he was given a horse, El Rosillo, by President  Diaz.

Eureka - The Impenetrability of Silk
An interesting area of research that Dr Goodfellow undertook was into the possibility of making bulletproof vests. Indeed, his research was of fundamental importance in this.

Many of the greatest discoveries in medicine and science come about because someone sees something that others may also have seen, yet only that person understands its significance.  They are the Eureka moments of science. George Goodfellow had his when he was digging out bullets!

In 1887 he wrote a paper in the Southern California Practitioner, entitled Notes on the Impenetrability of Silk to Bullets. In it he outlined three instances of gunshot wounds wherein bullets either did not go where they should have, or what should have been a fatality was not. It was the fact that the victims all had silk in one form or another, through which the bullets could not penetrate.

The paper is fascinating, but it is written in the dispassionate clinical manner of all scientific and medical papers. The tales behind them are fascinating and indeed apocryphal anecdotes of Tombstone during those violent days of the Wild West.

He begins the paper thus:

   ‘A somewhat extensive experience in the gunshot wounds of civil life, during the past few years, has brought to my attention the following instances illustrative of the remarkable tenacity of silk fibre and its resistance power of a bullet:’

I propose to describe these tales in more detail in another work, so for now it is enough to mention that in one case a fatal chest wound showed no blood loss, which was remarkable. The reason was that the bullet had hit a silk handkerchief and driven it into the chest cavity, but it had failed to penetrate the silk. In his post mortem examination he pulled the silk out and the bullet came out all wrapped up.

In another, that was not fatal, a man was  shot in the neck. He was wearing a silk neckerchief, which once again did not allow the bullet to pass through it, the result being that he did not sustain injury to the great blood vessels in his neck.

            ‘He subsequently told me, for I never saw him to speak to but twice, that all the liquids he took passed out of the wound of entrance for some weeks. He is now, I presume, pursuing his trade (cattle-stealing) on the border – if not in peace, at least in prosperity.'

           

Doctor Goodfellow went on to experiment with this, using layers of silk, rather like the medieval protective, quilted gambesons that had been used to protect against arrows. Others followed him and by the century's end bulletproof vests made from silk were being produced. They were extremely expensive, of course, yet offered some protection against bullets of low power.

Indeed, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was wearing one on the 28th June, 1914 when he was assassinated. His assassin shot him through his unprotected neck. And of course, it his assassination - the shot heard round the world - that is considered to be one of the triggers for the outbreak of World War I. *


[This famous phrase is also used in reference, of course, to the first shot fired in the American Revolutionary War.]

**********

My later ego Clay More has a couple of recent releases.  
Redemption Trail published by Western Trail Blazer
- a novelette- novella



Sam Gibson used to be a lawman, until the day he made a terrible mistake that could never be taken back. Since then, he has alternated between wishing there were a way he could redeem himself and believing he deserved punishment. 

He’s about to get both… 

Adventures from the Casebook of Dr Marcus Quigley published by High Noon Press
- seven interconnected short stories.


Doctor Marcus Quigley, qualified dental surgeon, gambler and sometime bounty hunter has gradually been working his way west. His reasons for choosing such a lifestyle are personal and pressing, as well as expedient, for there is someone he means to track down and hold to account for a murder committed some years previously.




22 comments:

  1. Fodder for our yarns, Keith. Thank you again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Keith, great post. What a creative mind Goodfellow had. While visiting Tombstone last week, I noticed his office door on the second floor of the Golden Eagle Brewery building.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Tom. Yes, he was an amazing fellow. I think that the Golden Eagle Brewery was a rebuild, to show where he practiced when he first came to Tombstone. The Golden Eagle Brewery burned down in the fire of 1881. He then put his shingle up on the second floor of the Crystal Palace Saloon which was built by Frederick Wehrfritz.

      Delete
  3. Thanks, Frank. There are lots of great tales about Doc Goodfellow.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As I never fail to remind you, I called on Dr. Goodfellow to travel from Tombstone to Prescott to save the life of my protagonist Matthew Stryker in a book called Road to Rimrock. And thank you for all the medical advice you give me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Road to Rimrock is a great book, Charlie. And I liked your Doc Goodfellow and his use of the teapot.

      And you are most welcome.

      Delete
  5. Dr. Goodfellow was an interesting fellow. His research must have led to the first bulletproof vest.
    Good stuff Keith.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was indeed, Jerry. And you are right, Casimir Zeglen used Doc Goodfellow's research to produce the first bulletproof vest, as opposed to armour, in 1893.

      Delete
  6. The Japanese fighting in China before WWII used multiple-layered silk vests to help protect against grenade and mortar fragments. In WWII paratroopers would cut silk (or nylon which replaced silk in 1943) panels from their parachutes and use them as multiple-layered scarfs. These helped protect from knife and bayonet slashes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gordo. That is fascinating. Goodfellow experimented with multiple layers of silk as well.

      Delete
  7. Fascinating, as always, Keith! I was reading a post a few days ago about a woman doctor known as Dr. Sofie, who had a good amount of experience with bullet wounds, and used the law of gravity to help her remove bullets. These are just of such interest to me, because I always have a wounded hero of some kind and usually, it's a bullet wound. LOL But this discovery of the impenetrable properties of silk and his discover of this just intrigues me so much--that he would put it all together and draw such a conclusion. How many others might have just said, "Well, the material stopped it." and decided it was from the bunching of the material, or the size of the bullet, etc. rather than noticing it was the KIND of material that was important? Love this!
    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is often how science advances, Cheryl. It's often a eureka moment, but sometimes it is a 'cor, blimey! But that is exactly the point, someone sees the significance of a chance phenomenon. Roentgen and x-rays, Percy Spencer and microwaves (he was building magnetrons for radar equipment and discovered that his peanut chocolate bar in his pocket melted!), and of course, Alexander Fleming and penicillium mould. People had known about this fungus, but he noticed that they inhibited growth of staphylococcal colonies on petri dishes, and eventually the world had penicillin.

      Delete
    2. So fascinating--all of it. Keith, medicine is probably the only field that has enough mental "nooks and crannies" to have kept YOUR mind occupied for all these years! So many amazing things!
      Cheryl

      Delete
  8. Awesome post, as usual, Doc! Love the idea of silk. Will have to file that tidbit away for future reference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Meg. Quite surprising, isn't it?

      Delete
  9. Keith... always fascinating. Could you send me that quote Goodfellow quote about gutshot gunslingers again?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jim. I'll email you it.

      Delete
    2. Post it, Keith! Would love to see it, too--um...unless you CAN'T post it here???LOL

      Delete
    3. OK! Nothing gory, just quite lengthy. But three snippets of George Goodfellow wisdom.
      It is my opinion based upon that experience, that it is inexcusable and criminal to neglect to operate upon a case of gunshot wound of the abdominal cavity. This by the way applies more particularly to the West, where the caliber of weapons used and the amount of powder behind the ball is greater than in the East. The 44 or 45-caliber Colt revolver, cut off or long, with the 45-60 and 44-40 Winchester rifles and carbines, are the toys with which our festive or obstreperous citizens delight themselves; and it may be stated as a truism that, given a gunshot wound of the abdominal cavity with one of the above caliber balls, if the cavity be not opened within an hour (I here put a very long limit on the time to be allowed) the patient by reason of haemorrhage is beyond any chance of recovery, and this without anything injured of greater moment than vessels of capillary size or a trifle larger, in either mesentery or intestines. With smaller caliber balls, 32 downward, there may be more propriety in waiting, and the smaller the ball the more advisable it may be. Any ball from 32 up may be expected to inflict damage enough to necessitate immediate operation; at least such has been my experience.


      This is also interesting:

      Given a wound of the abdominal cavity, what is the immediate result? Usually inevitable death from haemorrhage in from fifteen minutes to a very few hours at the most. There is no possibility of causing cessation of the flow by any procedure, save one. If we temporise, the haemorrhage goes on, the shock increases and the delay is fatal. Abdominal section affords the only means of relief.

      And this:

      A broad distinction, however, can be made between wounds of the upper and lower abdominal, or pelvic cavities, as to the prognosis immediate or remote. With wounds of the pelvic portion of the abdominal cavity more time is accorded the surgeon in which to make up his mind, and he can more justifiably act upon the laissez faire principle. Even her too much waiting proves disastrous in a majority of instances, and it is usually found when too late that surgical interference would have been advisable. Upper abdominal wounds have greater risk of injuring major organs - kidneys and liver - so have poorer prognosis and need more urgent treatment.

      Delete
    4. Very interesting! What a smart guy he was--we don't think about it, in every day life, so much, but what happened THEN is why we have so many medical advances now that might not have ever come about if not for the keen observation and experimentation from those early days.
      Cheryl

      Delete
  10. Keith,
    As usual your post is full of such promising and interesting information. I look forward to them for I learn so much. Thank you. Doris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Doris. I think George Goodfellow was a fascinating man, a true medical pioneer. Indeed, the University of Arizona has a George E. Goodfellow Surgical Society.

      Delete