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A Dose of Mathematical Medicine

Mathematics humor can be found everywhere. For example, locate an issue of the November 23, 1877, edition of The Weekly Mercury, an early mining camp newspaper published in Oroville, California. You would not expect to find mathematics humor in it.

However, consider this short article that reveals people's misunderstandings of numbers in real life:

Mathematics and Medicine
Among other talk to-day it came out that whaleships carry no doctor. The captain adds the doctorship to his own duties. He not only gives medicines, but sets broken limbs after notions of his own, or saws them off and sears the stump when amputation seems best. The captain is provided with a medicine chest, with the medicines numbered instead of named. A book of directions goes with this. It describes diseases and symptoms, and says: "Give a teaspoon of No. 9 once an hour" or "Give ten grains of No. 15 every half hour, etc. One of our sea captains came across a skipper in the North Pacific who was in a state of great surprise and perplexity. said he: "there's something rotten about the medicine chest business. One of my men was sick--nothing much the matter. I looked in the book; It said, give him a teaspoonful of No. 15. I went to the medicine chest and I see I was out of No. 15. I judge I'd got to get up a combination somehow that would fill the bill so I hove into the fellow half a teaspoonful of No. 8 and half a teaspoonful of No. 7, and I'd be hanged if it didn't kill him in 15 minutes! There's something about this medicine chest system that's too many for me!"
I should perhaps add that this article was first written by Mark Twain for the Atlantic Monthly.