San Diego Doctor to Talk About Medical Aspects of Lewis and Clark Expedition

The lecture is part of the Coronado Historical Society's Wine & Lecture series.

Dr. David Peck. Photo courtesy of the Coronado Historical Society
Dr. David Peck. Photo courtesy of the Coronado Historical Society

The Coronado Historical Society will host a talk about the role medicine play in the Lewis and Clark expedition at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Coronado Museum of History & Arts. As part of the group’s Wine & Lecture series, San Diego retired physician, Dr. David Peck, the author of Or Perish in the Attempt: The Hardship and Medicine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, will talk about how the expedition survived the 8,000-mile journey with no medical experts on the team.

The Wine & Lecture series started in April as a way to talk about Coronado history or any interesting historical topics as suggested by members, the group’s president Bruce Linder said. What caught his eyes about Friday’s lecture is the interesting take on the Lewis and Clark expedition that many may not have thought about.

“Everyone knows about Lewis and Clark,” Linder said. “You learn about it in school, read about it, but this book approached it in an entirely different manner than before.”

While there were no doctor on the expedition team, Peck said Lewis and Clark did have some medical training from a Philadelphia physician, Dr. Benjamin Rush. But he stressed that medical treatment at the time was often little more than bleeding, purging or sweating out the toxin.

“It was a very cook-book approach,” Peck said. “If you have these symptoms, then do this. The treatments are often toxic and did more harm than good.”

Despite all that, the team only suffered one death, Sgt. Charles Floyd, who died in what is now believed to be a case of appendicitis, but Peck said even if he weren’t on the expedition, there were little that the medical professionals at the time could have done.

Peck said became interested in the Lewis and Clark story after a trip to Montana, where his mother is from, and seeing the sites where the expedition visited, most of which remained exactly the same as when Lewis and Clark visited.

Peck’s talk will include anecdotes about the medical issues the team encountered, what they did and why they did it.

The Wine & Lecture series is held the Coronado Museum of History & Arts, 1100 Orange Ave., and is free to the public. For more information, call (619) 435-7242 or visit coronadohistory.org


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