Doctors and medicine in the Karoo

Snake bites and snake stones

Snakes occur across the Karoo and consequently there are a great variety of remedies across the region for snake bite. During his travels, Carl Thunberg came across small, flat and porous stones used in the treatment of snake bite; these were called “snake stones”. He said it was possible to test whether a stone was […]

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St John Ambulance in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War

Three Johnnies, as the St John Ambulance Brigade men who came to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War were known, are buried in the Karoo. Casualties suffered by the SJAB in South Africa from 1899 to 1902 were discussed by Professor Kay de Villiers and P Beighton in an article in the Military History Journal, […]

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The “bossiedokters”

Medical men have played a vital role in the history of the Great Karoo, and some sons of this region have risen to great heights in medicine. The trekboers migrant farmers learned about medicinal plants from indigenous people and so it is not surprising that the initial healers were “bossiedokters”, who using veld plants and […]

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The curative powers of sheep

The Karoo is widely hailed as excellent sheep country. Its mutton is world famous and many people know sleeping on sheep skin prevents bed sores. Few, however, realise that sheep are surrounded by a great deal of folklore. Way back, the great Roman orator Pliny observed: “while oxen help us cultivate our fields, it is […]

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The Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, Deelfontein near De Aar

The stories of several “visiting” doctors are also woven into the chronicles of the Karoo. Several of these great medical men served at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, near Richmond, during the Anglo-Boer War. Perhaps the greatest of them was Dr John Hall-Edwards, who headed the X-ray unit. Known as the “father of British […]

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Victor Dubowitz, pioneer in pedriatic medicine

Another Beaufort West shopkeeper’s son, who distinguished himself in medicine, was Victor Dubowitz. He pioneered major developments in pediatric neurology and made meaningful clinical and research contributions in the fields of neonatal neurology and neuromuscular disorders in children.  In 1965 he described a rare and difficult to diagnose, genetic disorder, which was named Dubowitz Syndrome […]

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William Gill of Somerset East: Doctor and botanist

Way back in the mid-1700s, a medical doctor, William Gill, came to practice in Somerset East; he turned his attention to botany and in time a major Eastern Cape college was established in that town and named Gill College in his honour. © Rose’s Roundup, April 2012. To subscribe to Rose’s Roundup, contact Rose Willis […]

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