Need help reading some 1860s penmanship

Anyone experienced reading poorly written 19th century documents? I’m trying to make sense of the cause of death on this 1866 death certficate–I can make out the word ‘apoplexy’, but there’s more to it:

Exhaustion of vitae (or possibly “vital”) (something starting with p or f?)
Serous apoplexy (compression of the brain from a collection of watery humours)

Any idea what exhaustion of vitae means?

Nope. I goodled for the serous apoplexy meaning, but not finding anything other than the fact that exhaustion is sometimes itself listed as a cause of death at this time.

“Vital exhaustion” comes up as a term for physical fatigue or psychological burnout. Often related to a heart attack or a stroke. However, one website claimed that it only entered the medical lexicon 25 years ago.

To me, the wording looks like “exhaustion of vital [something]”.

Perhaps he had a stroke, lingered in a coma, then just gradually faded out? Perhaps it is “exhaustion of vital functions”?

that could be…it looks like there’s a word there at the end that is just too squished up to read properly.
I’ve read a lot of obituaries from the time period, and certainly don’t ever recall seeing that phrase before, so it’s likely a technical term for something with a more mundane term.

Looks like “exhaustion of vital (functions)” to me.

About as helpful as “cardiac arrest”.

I believe it says “serum apoplexy”.

Not sure what that is, but it killed Mrs. M. Mulvaney in 1920:

I think it clearly(?) says “Exhaustion of vital power”. Which sounds like BS today, but perhaps it is just old-fashioned terminology that means something? E.g. immunosenescence

Looks like “exhaustion of vital powers” and “serous apoplexy”

Here’s a “Reference Handbook of Medical Sciences” from 1887 that uses the 1st phrase for a cause of death

And an 1884 obit that also uses “exhaustion of vital powers”

The 2nd phrase is “serous apoplexy”; here’s a link describing its use as a medical term.

I found a Cite that describes apoplexy in terms of 19th century medical terminology.

I don’t know if that helps confirm the use of “serum” or if it suggests some other word.

I also think the primary cause is “exhaustion of vital [p]….”
IANADr., but I think this person died of a stroke.

And now I found THIS cite, which confirms the word serum.

ETA: this is perhaps later than the death in the OP’s case. It might not be applicable.

Serous apoplexy is basically stroke caused by acute hydrocephalus, or something like that. The patient probably suffered from dropsy.

I think it’s “serous” which does refer to serum, but is the name of the diagnosis.

I can buy that the other one is exhaustion of vital power. I can’t make out that word, but I do think it most likely starts with p, and doesn’t contain any “tall” letters. And the term checks out.

Yes - its ‘exhaustion of vital power’ and ‘serous apoplexy’

They are both well-known early to mid-19th century medical-scientific facts. Serous apoplexy was one sort of apoplexy, or basically the body refusing to behave normally and relates to sudden imbalances or disruptions of bodily fluids or organs that severely test the system. Without the snazzy 19th century language its still basically the idea of imbalanced humours going back to the ancient Greeks.

The idea that this was an actual condition started being challenged systematically in the mid-1860s, so if Henry Budd had died a decade later he’d probably have a very different cause of death recorded. The handwriting is actually quite good [esp for a doctor].

OK, but surely “serous apoplexy” does not imply the guy randomly popped? The London Medical Dictionary (1819) says “Apoplexia serosa, which happens generally in aged and leucophlegmatic people; carus ab hydro-cephalo”.

The Cambridge World History of Human Disease says that Giovanni Battista Morgagni in 1761 reported numerous cases of postmortem examination of apoplexy cases, which he separated into serous apoplexy and sanguineous apoplexy. So the diagnosis may be based on an actual postmortem examination of the brain, not merely a guess involving “imbalanced humours”.

Very possibly the death certificate was informed by an autopsy, but the doctor was quite likely seeing and interpreting evidence based on what he was trained to see, which placed emphasis on fluids especially as causal not incidental to death. It would only have taken a minute for him to strangle a chicken to determine the real cause.

Thanks everyone. I always get way more information than I thought possible when I ask a question here.

It sounds to me like another way of saying “died of old age.”

He was 61 :scream:.