Saliva and crow’s vomit

The University of Pavia in northern Italy is one of the oldest in the world, founded in 1361.  It has a distinguished history of experimental scientific research: Alessandro Volta, the pioneer of electrochemistry, was professor there for forty years beginning in 1779. While Volta was working on his voltaic pile – the first electric battery … Continue reading Saliva and crow’s vomit

Glass half-empty

The remarkable headline above graced the pages of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences in April 1849.  In case you’re wondering, the two injuries are not related: the author just thought he’d put his two most spectacular cases in the same article. Dr W.S.W Ruschenberger, surgeon to the US Navy, writes: While recently on … Continue reading Glass half-empty

An ‘unnatural propensity’ and its perils

Until the early twentieth century, medicine had little to say about heart disease.  Although the best specialists of the nineteenth century became remarkably adept at distinguishing between different types of congenital defects using little more than the stethoscope and physical symptoms, they remained almost clueless about acquired conditions – and, in particular, what caused them.  … Continue reading An ‘unnatural propensity’ and its perils

Lettuce, a Class A drug

A post last week referred to Andrew Duncan, founder of the Medical and Philosophical Commentaries, the first regular medical journal published in the United Kingdom.  In 1810 he wrote a paper for a publication slightly less well known for its original medical research, the Memoirs of the Caledonian Horticultural Society.  His subject?  Lettuce.  Opium, or … Continue reading Lettuce, a Class A drug

Aleing all day, and oiling all night

Those who think that morbid obesity is a uniquely modern phenomenon should read William Wadd’s ‘Comments on Corpulency’, published over several issues of the London Medical Gazette in 1828.  In a long essay he considered dozens of cases he had encountered, many of whom would be today under the care of a bariatric surgeon.  Here’s … Continue reading Aleing all day, and oiling all night