You may be familiar with this dramatic photo, which has been doing the rounds recently on social media (mainly thanks to Lindsey Fitzharris – @drlindseyfitz on Twitter – if you’re not following her, you should be)
The eighteenth-century surgeon William Boys, although a distinguished clinician and Fellow of the Royal Society, was perhaps better known as an antiquary and historian of his home county of Kent. Among his published works is an account of the Luxborough Galley, a notorious shipwreck in which the few survivors resorted to cannibalism to keep themselves alive – one of … Read more
This strange little tale appeared in various literary and medical journals in 1806. This version is taken from The Medical and Physical Journal, which appears to have been one of the first to publish it. It is a salacious snippet rather than a case report, and some contemporaries read it with scepticism: one leading doctor quoted it in an … Read more
Philipp Franz von Walther was an eminent German surgeon highly regarded for his expertise in ophthalmology and as a pioneer in plastic surgery. While serving as professor at the University of Bonn he was also the co-editor of an influential periodical, the Journal der Chirurgie und Augenheilkunde. In 1822 he published this surprising clinical report, which was subsequently translated (and, … Read more
Cases of unusual foreign objects can make entertaining reading, though often for the ‘wrong’ reasons. The medical literature is full of tales of bizarre items inserted in orifices where they weren’t meant to go, but such stories seldom add much to the sum of human knowledge – except perhaps provide yet more evidence of our capacity for folly.
This example … Read more
Here’s an intriguing snippet reported by the Paris correspondent of the Lancet in September 1882:
We have now a patient in the Lariboisiere Hospital who has been operated on by Dr. Felizet for the removal of a spoon from the stomach. The patient was a waiter at a café who in a frolic accidentally swallowed a spoon. It was a … Read more
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