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The Medicine Chest

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  • Prisoners on a Projecting Platform

    Etching from Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)' ca. 1749–50
  • The Pier with Chains

    Etching from Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)' ca. 1749–50
  • Kimberley, South Africa: miners and washing gear at the Bultfontein diamond mine

    Woodburytype
  • Griqualand West, South Africa: Kimberley diamond mine.

    Woodburytype
  • Kimberley Mine

    A detail from the wallpaper used outside the Cape Town Diamond Museum in the V&A Waterfront.
  • The Drawbridge

    Etching from Giovanni Battista Piranesi's 'Carceri d'invenzione (Imaginary Prisons)' ca. 1749-50
  • Kimberley Mine 1886

    Plate from Williams, G. 1902. 'The Diamond Mines of South Africa: Some Account of their Rise and Development'. New York, London: Macmillan.
  • Cecil John Rhodes statue

    The man who consolidated thousands of small diggings in Kimberley to found De Beers Consolidated Mines was Cecil Rhodes, who then used the profits to extend into gold mining in and around Johannesburg.
  • Haematite Miner's Lung (Or Sidero-silicosis)

    Catalogue No: R3-d55-0331. Origin: UCT Anat Path museum. Old Museum No: V:x:6. Year: not recorded. ​Clinical data: No further clinical or laboratory details are available other than that the patient was an emaciated 50 year old man. Macroscopy: The specimens preserved are both lungs, the heart, kidneys, spleen and and portions of liver. In the thorax, both pleural cavities were completely obliterated by a fibrous pleurisy of long-standing and both lungs were universally adherent throughout. They were stripped off with difficulty and were found to have thickening of the pleura over the upper lobe on the left side and the upper and middle lobes on the right. The lower lobes on both sides were soft and spongy while the upper lobes were dense and firm on palpation but on section there was no cavitation and no evidence of tuberculosis. The left lung showed a dense fibrosis of the whole of the upper lobe and the upper third of the lower lobe; no crepitant lung tissue could be found in the upper lobe while the lower two-thirds of the lower was crepitant and showed emphysema of a hypertrophic nature. The lung was a dull brick colour and haematite dust flowed out with the fluid when the lung was sectioned. The right lung presented a similar appearance to the left. There was a solid dense fibrosis of the upper and middle lobes and the lower lobe showed fibrosis with hypertrophic emphysema. There was no evidence of tuberculosis and on palpation, a dense fibrosis was found with no nodular formation whatever. On section, it showed a similar appearance of a brick-dust colour, dilated bronchi and uniform fibrosis of the upper and middle lobes with no crepitant lung tissue. The pericardial sac was slightly increased in size due to a hypertrophied and dilated heart. The hypertrophy was mostly on the right side and there was a terminal dilatation of the right atrium; the valves and coronary vessels unremarkable.The liver was small and on section showed venous congestion and cloudy swelling. Microscopy: On microscopy, sections of lung show a diffuse fibrosis of both upper lobes with no recognizable lung tissue. The fibrosis in areas has a slightly whorled arrangement, the centre of which is hyaline and contains no iron pigment and surrounding it is a zone of cellular tissue containing masses of iron. In the upper part of the lower lobe where the lung tissue is recognizable as such, a few nodules definitely resembling silica nodules are to be seen. In the both lower lobes a solid oedema was noted and emphysema marked. The fibrosis was not present to anything like the same extent in the lower lobes, the emphysema being the most marked feature. No evidence of tuberculosis was found in either lung, though a calcareous gland was found in the hilum. Under polarised light, the iron showed up as a golden brown with a few points of light, clear, needle-like in contra-distinction to the iron lying free in the fibrous tissue. The macrophages are beautifully shown lying inside the alveoli filled with iron dust. Percentage of Ash 16.6 Percentage of silica to ash 6.6 Percentage of silica to dry lung 1.1 Percentage of iron to ash 10.3 Percentage of iron to dry lung 6.7 Comments: In summary, the post mortem findings were of: Dense pulmonary fibrosis; hypertrophied and dilated right ventricle; failure of compensation. This condition is described as haematite miner's lung or sidero-silicosis, caused by the inhalation of dust containing silica and ferric oxide which is the principal component of the ore. The fibrosis is thought to be caused primarily by the silica and the exact role of the iron pigment in the pathogenesis of the lesion is not clear. The earliest lesions occur as small densely fibrous, sub-pleural foci usually in the upper lobes; these grow by coalescence of adjacent foci until a diffuse fibrosis of the whole lobe is produced. Haematite miner's fibrosis is commonly associated with tuberculosis and other chronic lung infections; in addition there is quite a high incidence of carcinoma of the lung reported in these cases.
  • Floyd in Northern Rhodesia

    "In 1913, Walter Floyd undertook a hunting trip with a few of his friends to (then) Northern Rhodesia. It was prior to embarking on this trip, that he purchased the No. 254 medicine chest in the Burroughs Wellcome & Co shop in Cape Town. ​ "With the exception of an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area that became known as Rhodesia lay largely untouched by Western intervention until the mid-19th century. It was only after 1851, when the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone entered this terrain, that accounts of it spread to London and further afield (Taylor 2006: 11). However, a significant number of explorers, missionaries and traders began to arrive in the region after the Berlin Conference (1884–1885) (Simson 1985: 7), and in 1890 Cecil John Rhodes, spearheading British imperial interests in the area, secured, through trickery and deception, exclusive mining concessions from the local chiefs for the British South Africa Company (Taylor 2006: 11). By 1895, the area, now renamed Northern and Southern Rhodesia after Rhodes, was proclaimed a British sphere of influence" (Liebenberg 2021: 57)
  • Smallpox

    "In Kimberley in 1883-4, several leading doctors with links to the diamond-mining industry publicly denied the presence of smallpox among migrant workers, instead diagnosing them as suffering from a rare skin disease. They appear to have done so lest admitting that the dreaded smallpox was raging, which would have affected the supply of labour and materiel and thereby interrupting mining operations. Led by Cecil Rhodes’s friend, Dr Leander Starr Jameson, measures to curb the epidemic were sporadic or, in the mining compounds, non-existent, and cases topped 2000, with mortality at 3.5 per cent of the population. Only when the colonial government eventually called in external doctors to diagnose the disease, was the cover-up terminated and vaccination, fumigation and isolation vigorously pursued. The conspiracy of denial, by retarding action and sowing doubt about the need to be vaccinated, had been responsible for no small percentage of the 700 deaths in the town" (Phillips 2012: 32-33).
  • Kimberlite

    "UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, a high school for boys. ​ The College had a small tertiary-education facility that grew substantially after 1880, when the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north – and the resulting demand for skills in mining – gave it the financial boost it needed to grow. ​ The College developed into a fully fledged university during the period 1880 to 1900, thanks to increased funding from private sources and the government. ​ During these years, the College built its first dedicated science laboratories, and started the departments of mineralogy and geology to meet the need for skilled personnel in the country's emerging diamond and gold-mining industries (Ritchie 1918: 495-496)".
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