The monk with a perfume bottle stuck up his bottom

Today’s dose of medical mishap is excerpted from an influential textbook published in 1837 by George Bushe, a surgeon who died at the age of 39 and about whom little is known. Born and trained in Ireland, he emigrated to the US in his twenties and became a lecturer at Rutgers Medical School in New … Continue reading The monk with a perfume bottle stuck up his bottom

Robot hearts

The horrors of nineteenth-century medicine will return to this blog tomorrow, but here’s a brief intermezzo: The Guardian recently printed a long extract from The Matter of the Heart, my new book about the history of heart surgery. It’s an abbreviated version of the book’s final chapter, which looks at some of the cutting-edge technology used by  today’s … Continue reading Robot hearts

The ‘first’ heart transplant

Do you know who performed the world’s first heart transplant ? The surgeon usually credited with the feat is the South African Christiaan Barnard, who on December 3rd 1967 gave Louis Washkansky, a 54-year-old grocer, a new heart. The fiftieth anniversary of that celebrated operation falls later this year – but Barnard was not, in … Continue reading The ‘first’ heart transplant

An abominable, disgusting habit

There are plenty of common myths about Victorian social mores, but anything you have read about their disapproval of onanism (masturbation) is likely to be true. Nineteenth-century medics were apparently united in their condemnation of the practice, which was believed to cause not just blindness, but all manner of serious physical ailments – many of … Continue reading An abominable, disgusting habit