How falling off a horse led to discovering the opiate receptor

“Any way you can make love, somebody’s already thought of. Any crazy caper you can get up to, any great meal you can think of, any combination of children or idea of how to raise them – somebody’s already thought of. But nobody’s ever discovered an opiate receptor before.”

– Candace Pert1

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Recovery From The Passage Of An Iron Bar Through The Head’ (1868)

This Thursday let’s throw it all the way back to 1868 when a doctor named John M. Harlow finally had enough. For twenty years he had endured incredulous disbelief at his initial report of a patient – a man named Phineas Gage – who survived a tamping iron exploding through his head. Now that the man had unfortunately passed away, and the doctor had the good fortune of procuring the skull as indubitable proof of the event, he compiled his notes and published a case study:

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Love to tan? Blame Coco Chanel & your skin cells.

Coco Chanel, 1920

Coco Chanel, 1920 Source Hal Vaughan. Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. Random House (2011)

Sometime in the summer of 1923, a forty-year-old French woman named Gabrielle returned from a holiday cruise in the French Riveria with a sunburn. I imagine this must have been a common occurrence, and surely would have gone unnoticed except for one thing: Gabrielle was actually known as Coco. As in Coco Chanel. The fashion icon’s newly bronzed skin became an instant trend among her fans that subsequently catalyzed a widespread obsession with sun-tanning.

No disrespect to the immense influence of Coco Chanel (apparently she is also credited with freeing women from the suffocating corset), but her sunburn was particularly timely. Not only was the Victorian-era aesthetic reverence for pale skin already fading, but sun exposure was just recently being heralded as the new ‘cure-all’ for a wide variety of diseases and illnesses. So it’s easy to understand the enthusiasm with which people embraced sun-tanning. Good for your health and fashionable – when does that ever happen? (more…)