The heart surgeon and the Nazis

The American Michael DeBakey was one of the giants of twentieth-century surgery. His extraordinary career spanned eight decades, beginning in the 1930s and ending only with his death at the age of 99 in 2008. He is best known today as a pioneering cardiac surgeon, but in the early 1950s he and his then colleague Denton Cooley also revolutionised the … Read more

A real-life murder mystery from old Dublin

The murder of Mr Little

News today of my next big project – I’m delighted to be writing a book for Harvill Secker, for publication next year.

The Dublin Railway Murder tells the story of a notorious crime perpetrated in the Broadstone railway terminus in Dublin in 1856. One morning that November, the station’s cashier George Little was found dead underneath his desk, his … Read more

Emergency coffee

This story of misadventure and an unusual resuscitation method seems particularly appropriate for what Twitter tells me is International Coffee Day. It was published in the Pacific Medical Journal in 1866; the author, Dr Cachot, was an eminent physician from San Francisco.

poisoning by aconite

The daughter of Mr. D–, aged 22 months, swallowed from a vial a portion of tinct. aconite, with Read more

Removed without the least difficulty

Sir William Fergusson was a leading figure in Victorian medicine. A great and widely respected surgeon, he began his career in Edinburgh in the 1820s before moving to London, and the professorship of surgery at King’s College, in 1840. In very little time he established himself as a pillar of the capital’s medical community, and one of its most successful … Read more

A triumph of surgery

In June 1898, British newspapers reported an exciting medical story under the headline ‘Triumph in Surgery’. Their source was a case history published in that week’s edition of The Lancet. The author, Dr William Brown of Chester-le-Street, County Durham, was not a well-known figure; but for a few days, at least, he enjoyed a reputation as a pioneering surgeon.… Read more

Nobody nose

Leonardo Fioravanti was a celebrated – and later infamous – Italian doctor of the sixteenth century. You’ll find little information about him online, which is a shame, because his was a fascinating career. Like many Renaissance thinkers he did not restrict his investigations to one field but ranged widely across the arts and sciences, from philosophy to astrology, biology to … Read more