On flatulence and Darwin

In 1867 The Medical Press and Circular published a series of articles by the physician Dr John Chapman on a subject in which he was a world authority: flatulence. To be fair to Dr Chapman, he was also an influential publisher and an expert in psychology specialising in ‘neurotics’ – those we would now describe as … Continue reading On flatulence and Darwin

The man with 87 children

The English physician Samuel Merriman (1771-1852) was a leading authority on midwifery and the diseases of pregnancy.  His best-known work, published in 1814, was Synopsis of the Various Kinds of Difficult Parturition, a treatise on the dangers of childbirth which was translated into several languages.  In an engaging section on multiple births he includes a … Continue reading The man with 87 children

The cure of Thomas Tipple

In 1840 an American physician, Dr Pliny Earle, visited the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. He wrote an account of what he saw there, subsequently published in The American Journal of the Medical Sciences.  It’s a document of great value, not least because he describes a number of exhibits which were … Continue reading The cure of Thomas Tipple

Reattached with a sticking plaster

Today’s surgeons are quite adept at reattaching parts of the body when they have been severed. Fingers, hands and even entire arms have been successfully reunited with their owners. You might think that such feats were only made possible by the paraphernalia of the modern operating theatre: microscopes, superfine suture materials and so on. That’s … Continue reading Reattached with a sticking plaster

The missing tobacco pipe

In 1855 The Lancet reported the proceedings of the most recent meeting of the London Medical Society. Here is one highlight:  Mr. Henry Smith showed a portion of tobacco pipe, nearly two inches in length, which he had extracted from behind the ear of a boy who, between two and three years previously, had fallen down whilst holding a … Continue reading The missing tobacco pipe

Conceived by a bullet

There are many cases of supposed virgin births in the early medical literature, but few are as wonderfully unlikely as this one published in The Lancet in early 1875:  The following rich gynaecological contribution is reported in the columns of the American Medical Weekly for Nov. 7th, 1874, by L. G. Capers, M.D., Vicksburg, Mississippi. … Continue reading Conceived by a bullet

The mysterious bullet in the heart

In 1852 The Monthly Journal of Medical Science published a report from Burma, where British forces had just begun to fight the Second Anglo-Burmese War.  They landed on April 12th and captured the city of Rangoon shortly afterwards, setting up a field hospital in a priest’s house requisitioned for the purpose. Six surgeons travelled with … Continue reading The mysterious bullet in the heart