Amputating the bowels

Browsing an 1869 edition of The Lancet I stumbled across a short news article with this promising headline: A cutting from an American paper gives us an account of a remarkable operation for umbilical hernia, in which the operator, Dr. G. D. Beebe, found it necessary to cut away between four and five feet of sphacelated small intestine.  ‘Sphacelated’ … Continue reading Amputating the bowels

Occupation: glass and nail eater

This case, reported in the Annals of Surgery in 1907, has one of the best patient histories I’ve ever read. The medical literature is packed with examples of people swallowing indigestible objects, but this example is surely one of the most extraordinary. The narrator is Arthur E. Benjamin, a surgeon from Minneapolis: Mr. E. W., … Continue reading Occupation: glass and nail eater

Death from peas

In July 1842 the London Medical Gazette printed one of the most intriguing headlines in the history of the journal: The story accompanying it was told by George Johnson, a physician’s assistant at King’s College Hospital in London. This is what he had to relate:  John Lydbury, aged 60, labourer, was brought to the hospital on … Continue reading Death from peas

The double monster

The phenomenon of conjoined twins was poorly understood until the twentieth century. Though even the earliest medical journals contain reports of many cases, the predominant tone is one of horror and even fear rather than compassion or detached interest. Right up until the end of the nineteenth century, words such as ‘monster’ or ‘monstrosity’ were … Continue reading The double monster