cases of insanity, indulgence in animal food, violent amorous passions, overstrained zeal, universalism, riches

Dr. Kahn explores diseases in Maine 200 years ago

On Thursday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m., the Camden Public Library will host an online presentation with physician and medical historian Dr. Richard Kahn about his new book Diseases in the District of Maine 1772 - 1820: The Unpublished Work of Jeremiah Barker, a Rural Physician in New England.

The book explores a lost manuscript written 200 years ago by a rural New England physician who lived and practiced in Gorham and Portland, ME. The program will be held on the Zoom meeting platform. Email to request a link to attend.

Assisted by his wife, Patricia, a medical librarian, Kahn began work on the Jeremiah Barker papers more than 30 years ago with the rediscovery of the Barker Manuscript at the Maine Historical Society Library in Portland. The papers contain a fifty-year record of Barker’s reflections on diseases, diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes, with an unusual effort to consult and cite the medical literature and other physicians in a changing medical landscape.

“In short, it is a remarkable record of medicine as practiced in northern New England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, during the shift of medical authority from Hippocrates and Galen to the beginnings of the scientific method,” said the Library, in a news release.

Dr. Barker made such wry observations as, "During my practice in Maine, I met with many cases of insanity . . . Too great indulgence in animal food, violent amorous passions, overstrained zeal, universalism, riches suddenly accumulated, avarice, a fear of starving tho affluent, disappointment, excessive anger, fight, Jealousy, and hereditary disposition have been followed by insanity under my own observation." 

Kahn’s book delivers Barker’s manuscript transcribed and presented in its entirety with extensive annotations, a five-chapter introduction to contextualize the work, and a glossary to make it accessible to 21st century general readers, genealogists, students, and historians.

Kahn is retired after having practiced internal medicine in the Midcoast area for fifty years. He confesses to have developed an “almost pathological” interest in medical history since attending medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine. He has been active in several organizations devoted to medical history, most notably the American Association for the History of Medicine and the American Osler Society.

Kahn will donate all proceeds from the sale of his book to Maine Historical Society.

For more information on this and other library programs, visit

Event Date: 

Thu, 12/03/2020 - 6:00pm

Event Location: