Dr. James’s Fever Powder, circa 1746

Dr. James’s fever powder, patented by English physician Robert James, claimed to cure fevers and various other maladies, from gout and scurvy to distemper in cattle. Though its efficacy was often questioned, the powder had “a long tradition of usage,” from its introduction in 1746 well into the 20th century, says John Crellin, a professor of medical humanities at Memorial University of Newfoundland. It was even prescribed to King George III when he was suffering from cataracts, rheumatism and dementia at the end of his life.

© Wellcome Library, London
1 - To safeguard his secret formula for the fever powder, James submitted a fake patent application that didn’t reveal the proper way the powder was created and formulated. The true composition of Dr. James’s powder was in question for many years, and was believed to be continually changing throughout its production. Determining its...

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