My jaw hit the floor – in a metaphorical, not a literal, sense, although the latter circumstance would itself be worthy of an entry on this blog – when I came across this little story. It concerns a case reported by Paul Broca, a French physician who played a key role in the early development of neuroscience, since he … Read more
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
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.
The daughter of Mr. D–, aged 22 months, swallowed from a vial a portion of tinct. aconite, with … Read more
I was delighted to be asked to write a series of essays for the Wellcome Collection, a wonderful museum in London which houses an important collection of medical artefacts and also one of the greatest medical libraries in the world.
The subject I chose to write about is Revolutions in Medicine – in six essays I tell the stories … Read more
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
I have reported a few eye-watering tales on this blog in the past, but few stories deserve the epithet quite so literally as this one. It was published in a French journal of ophthalmic medicine, the Annales d’oculistique, in 1850. The author, Dr Collette, was a doctor from Liege in Belgium; a contemporary directory refers to him as a … Read more
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
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
‘First, do no harm.’
You may be familiar with this aphorism, which in the last hundred years or so has become the unofficial motto of medical ethics. Almost all young doctors will hear the phrase at an early stage of their training – a useful encapsulation of a central tenet of medicine, that the physician (or surgeon) should consider the … Read more
I recently came across the online archives of the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Journal, the in-house publication of the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Society. The society was founded in Bristol around 1874 and is still very much in existence – as is its journal, albeit in electronic form. In the very first volume of the BMCJ, published in 1883, can … Read more