The output of the French baroque composer Marin Marais contains an oddity: a musical depiction of a surgical operation. A piece from the fifth book of his Pieces de Viole is entitled Le Tableau de l’Opération de la Taille (Portrait of an Abdominal Operation – you can listen to it here), and is an attempt to convey the … Read more
We are not quite satisfied that the subjoined paragraph, taken from a weekly London paper, contains a correct account of Dr. Elliotson’s Phrenological Lecture on the cranium of De … Read more
In 1875 the British Medical Journal had some fun digging around in the archives:
BARBAROUS PUNISHMENT: A SURGEON’S OCCUPATION. – 1720, March 29th. On Wednesday, Thomas Hayes, formerly the commander of a merchantman, stood in the pillory at Charing Cross, for the hour of twelve to one, when a surgeon, attended by the prison officers, got upon the pillory, when … Read more
In the nineteenth century the medical profession had something of an image problem. The archetype of the pompous or unscrupulous doctor was well established, and authors like Charles Dickens had much fun sending them up with satirical depictions which were painfully close to the mark. In The Pickwick Papers, the young doctor Bob Sawyer uses a number of underhand … Read more
Rhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical operations, known to have been practised by the Indian surgeon Sushruta in the 1st millennium BC, and with great sophistication in the 17th century by the Italian physician Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who created new noses from the muscles of the upper arm.
This case reported in the 1830s in The New … Read more
November 5th has long been a busy night for practitioners of emergency medicine. Injuries caused by fireworks are as old as the things themselves – but one case reported by a Dr Beaumont in The Lancet in 1862 was a particularly lucky escape. The patient sustained a serious brain injury and somehow escaped with his life:
James W—, aged … Read more
Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterised by a skin rash, joint pain and fatigue. Although poorly understood even today, it is known to be caused by an anomalous response of the body’s immune system, which erroneously begins to attack otherwise healthy tissue.
In 1852, when the Canada Medical Journal reported this case, the condition was widely (and incorrectly) believed to … Read more
A jaw-dropping case was reported in The New York Medical and Physical Journal in 1823, one in which a patient conducted an operation on herself. The best-known example of self-operation occurred in 1961, when a Soviet surgeon working on an Antarctic base was forced to take out his own infected appendix; this much earlier case took place in more … Read more
A peculiar case was reported to readers of The Lancet in 1856 by Dr Jonathan Green, the proprietor of a London business offering therapeutic sulphur baths. One day he encountered a mysterious patient who would not give her name:
She came to my establishment, as it were, determined not to be recognised, wrapped up in a shawl, veil, &c., and … Read more
‘Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup’ was marketed as an effective analgesic, to be given to teething infants and older children with indigestion. A contemporary advertisement declared that ‘it is … Read more