200 Years Ago A Medical Breakthrough Occurred On Mackinac Island
I had heard something about this medical breakthrough in the past but had no idea it occurred on Mackinac Island. What medical breakthrough occurred by chance 200 years ago?
On this site in 1822, Alexis St. Martin, a voyageur, was injured by an accidental gunshot wound. The unusual healing of the wound allowed Dr. William Beaumont, Fort Mackinac’s post surgeon, to conduct experiments on how the human stomach worked. It was this work that led us to our understanding of how the human digestive system works today.
When they say an “unusual healing” they mean his stomach healed with a permanent opening to the stomach. That gave Dr. Beaumont the ability to look into the stomach. According to mackinacparks.com:
When the wound healed in a unique way, forming a fistula that bonded the torso wall to the stomach, Beaumont started a series of experiments on human digestion. The living, working stomach was accessible to the doctor and he proceeded to test how food digested through observations, lowering foods into the stomach, and testing the gastric juices in vials outside of the stomach. Almost 250 experiments were conducted starting at Fort Mackinac and continuing in Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and New York.
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the shooting of St. Martin, the museum will have a brand-new exhibit commemorating “Dr. Beaumont’s famous experiments and the scientific process, as well as the effect it had on St. Martin”.
Steve Brisson, Mackinac State Historic Parks Director said:
We are excited to update this exhibit as part of our bicentennial celebration of this important event in medical history
My wife and I love to visit Mackinac City and the island and will definitely put this on our travel plans this year.