An exercise in futility

The steam carriageThis blog usually deals with medical matters; but I couldn’t resist reproducing this article from the first number of the American Medical and Philosophical Register, published in 1814, even though it was contributed to the non-medical section of the journal. An engineer called James Sharples – holder of a patent relating to steam engines – contributed an essay about … Read more

The perils of toast

An account of the extraction of a foreign body from the rectumA cautionary tale from the Medical Facts and Observations, published in 1795:

On Tuesday, the 25th of March last, a French gentleman was sent to me by an Apothecary in this neighbourhood, complaining of a pungent, hot, and irritating sensation in the rectum ; which was considerably augmented during every evacuation per anum. These painful symptoms had commenced on Read more

Hard to stomach

Hospital reportsIn 1823 The Lancet’s regular summary of goings-on at the London hospitals contained this interesting report of an early public demonstration of the stomach pump.  The experiment documented here took place at Guy’s Hospital:

Friday, Nov. 21. At half past one o’clock the operating theatre was crowded to excess, in consequence of its having been stated on the preceding Read more

Heal thyself

Dr Lower's remediesA curious book of remedies was published in London in 1700, entitled Dr. Lower’s, and several other Eminent Physicians, Receipts, Containing the Best and Safest Method for Curing Most Disease in Human Bodies.  It was aimed at those without easy access to medical services – a compilation of home remedies which could be prepared by those without any pharmacological expertise.  … Read more

A fatal nose job

This dramatic headline from an early edition of The Lancet caught my eye:rhino

It’s a great illustration of the changing nature of surgical risk.  If today a patient died after having a nose job, it would probably be on the front page of the newspapers; death is not an expected complication of a nose reconstruction.  But 1827 was a very … Read more

Roger ‘two urinals’ Clerk

How quacks were treated in the fourteenth centuryIn 1868 the Corporation of London published a slim volume entitled Memorials of London and London Life in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Centuries.  It contained extracts from the archives of the City of London.  An editor at The Lancet read it, and found an anecdote which remained topical, half a millennium later:

One Roger Clerk professed to be Read more