Reference Entry

Cooke, John Esten

Glen P. Jenkins

in American National Biography Online

Published in print January 1999 |
Published online February 2000 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697 | DOI:

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Cooke, John Esten (02 March 1783–19 October 1853), physician and educator, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Stephen Cooke, a revolutionary war surgeon and Virginia physician, and Catherine Esten. Cooke began his study of medicine under his father and concluded his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1805. He established successful practices first in Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia, and later in Winchester, Virginia. During this time he married Lucy Beale; they had ten children. Cooke gained prominence for his singular theory of medicine, namely, that all diseases had a universal cause—cold and miasmata (foul air). This “universal cause,” if left untreated, would result in congestion of the vena cava and its branches, affect the heart and especially the liver, and ultimately bring on death. Diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, typhus, and others were merely manifestations of this universal cause. Once Cooke had reduced all diseases to a universal cause, he looked for and found what he considered a universal treatment. Calomel (mercurous chloride), assisted by other purgatives, if taken in sufficient quantity, would, he believed, cure all. “If calomel did not salivate and opium did not constipate,” he said, “there is no telling what we could do in the practice of physic” ( ...

Reference Entry.  1040 words. 

Subjects: Medicine and Health

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