This fascinating case report was published in the Philosophical Transactions in 1701, contributed by a distinguished Dublin physician, Thomas Molyneux. It is notable both for the unusual nature of the injury, and for the remarkably sophisticated surgery that followed.
Dorcas Blake, a full-bodied sanguine maid, of about twenty years old…
Ms Blake was ‘sanguine’ in a particular medical sense. Since … Read more
One area in which medicine has made gigantic strides in the last thirty years is the treatment of very premature babies. Pregnancy lasts on average 40 weeks; a baby born before 37 weeks’ gestation is classed as premature. Most premature babies are born in what is known as the ‘late preterm’ stage, only two or three weeks earlier than … Read more
A curious phenomenon common to medical history and folklore is that of the bosom serpent – stories of snakes, frogs, lizards and other animals living inside the human stomach or intestines. According to the physician and medical historian Jan Bondeson, “no fewer than 68 case reports of live reptiles or amphibians inside the gastrointestinal tract” appeared in the professional literature … Read more
If you enjoy reading this blog, and you like going to bed with an audiobook – good news! The audio version of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is out now. It contains more than sixty of my favourite medical curiosities – weird and wonderful tales drawn from the historical medical literature.
Readings are by the fantastic Rupert Farley, whose … Read more
It’s Guy Fawkes Night, the annual festival when we British celebrate (inter alia) the barbaric torture and execution of a religious dissident four hundred years ago by setting off brightly-coloured explosions in our gardens and public spaces.
Which of these activities do you think is more immoral: selling fireworks to children, or sending them up chimneys? Surprisingly, … Read more
Can the human body spontaneously catch fire? For many years people believed that it could. Spontaneous human combustion was a topic that fascinated medics and the general public for many years. In the early nineteenth century it was widely believed to be a genuine phenomenon, caused by some quirk of human physiology (I’ve previously written about one celebrated case from … Read more
Some time ago I wrote about Thomas Tipple, a Londoner who was impaled by his own carriage in 1812. The shaft of the vehicle passed right through his chest, causing massive injury, but he made a good recovery – even though he received the bare minimum of treatment. Thanks to the exceptional nature of that case, Tipple’s name remained … Read more
Charles White was an eminent Manchester surgeon of the eighteenth century. As a young man he studied anatomy in London with William Hunter, and became friendly with William’s brother John, the outstanding medical scientist of the age. Returning to Manchester, he set up in private practice and co-founded the city’s infirmary in 1752. He also attained considerable fame … Read more
If you enjoy these stories of medical mishaps and surgical drama, why not buy my book? The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth is out now, published by Transworld. The American edition will be published on November 20th.
In 1899 the Atlanta surgeon Dr Kinsman Divine dropped dead while performing an operation. The procedure was nearly complete, and he was putting … Read more
The year is 1840, and The Lancet brings us this snippet of medical news from Germany:
A man who, from his youth, had been accustomed to catch and tame vipers, brought two, on the 24th March, to a shopkeeper. While playing with one of the animals, he put it in his mouth…
I bet you can’t guess what happened next.… Read more