In my last post I wrote about an impressive operation performed in 1888 by the American surgeon George Ryerson Fowler, who successfully removed two bullets from a patient’s brain. Shortly after publishing that story I came across another of Fowler’s cases which, although not well known, deserves a place in the history books. It represented a significant milestone in … Read more
At the age of 14, George Ryerson Fowler ran away from his parents’ home in Jamaica and stowed away on a ship to New York. The Civil War had just begun, and Fowler dreamed of joining the Union army as a drummer boy; but after a sleepless night in the rat-infested basement of a derelict house in Manhattan he seems … Read more
Henry Fryer was a surgeon from the market town of Stamford in Lincolnshire. When he died in 1823 he left £7,500 in his will for the foundation of a new hospital – and almost two centuries on, the Stamford and Rutland Hospital is still very much open.
Fryer was in his early thirties and near the beginning of his career … Read more
One of the most famous of all medical marvels is the case of Phineas Gage, the American railroad worker who somehow survived having a large metal rod driven straight through his head. It’s a truly amazing story, but has been written about so often that you might be led to think that it was the only interesting thing to … Read more
Things have been quiet here for the last couple of months. I’ve been busy with a few other projects, including putting the final touches to my latest book The Dublin Railway Murder, which will be out later this year. My publishers Harvill Secker have done a wonderful job with the cover design, which I am delighted to be able … Read more
This spectacular case was published in the Medical Press and Circular, a leading Irish journal, in 1866. The author Dr Thomas Geoghegan was an eminent Dublin physician, particularly well known for his expertise in forensic medicine. (Dr Geoghegan makes a brief appearance in the book I’ve just finished writing, a true-crime thriller about an extraordinary Dublin murder case, … Read more
In 1803 a surgeon from Dumbarton in Scotland, Alexander Hunter, wrote to the London Medical and Physical Journal to report this remarkable lucky escape:
An apprentice of William Ewing, a cooper, in this neighbourhood, had an ulcer on the fore-part of the tibia with considerable inflammation, for which he was ordered a poultice with acetate of lead.
Pretty much any substance you care to mention has, at one time or another, been touted as a cure for cancer. The historic medical literature is littered with unsuccessful specifics for the disease. Many of them were deadly poisons such as arsenic or belladonna – indeed, the use of poisons has persisted, in a more sophisticated form, in contemporary chemotherapies.… Read more
A few months ago I wrote about the criminal who was lucky to recover after inhaling a fake gold earring. By chance I’ve just come across another case report written by the same Victorian surgeon, Bernard Pitts. Not a well-known figure, principally because he wrote little and shunned publicity. But he seems to have been a very good … Read more
The Medical and Philosophical Commentaries, first published in 1773, was one of the earliest journals intended as a regular digest of the latest in medical scholarship – and the first to survive for any length of time. Its founder Andrew Duncan (the elder) was a professor at the University of Edinburgh, at a time when the city was … Read more