Dead or alive at will

In 1733 a book about depression and mental health was published in Dublin: The English Malady; or, A Treatise of Nervous Diseases of All Kinds, as Spleen, Vapours, Lowness of Spirits, Hypochondriacal and Hysterical Distemper. The author, George Cheyne – born a Scot, though he moved to London – was convinced that the English were uniquely prone to depressive … Read more

The seven-foot tumour

monstrous wombThis brief case report is a reminder that there are certain medical horrors which were once commonplace but which are never seen today in the developed world. Untreatable conditions would progress unhindered, often resulting in terrible deformity. Tumours could reach a size almost unimaginable to the modern mind – although in developing countries such cases do, sadly, still arise.

This … Read more

Unfortunate injury of the decade

wound of penisHere’s a story published 150 years ago in the British Medical Journal which made me wince on at least four separate occasions. At a seminar at the Liverpool Medical Institution in January 1863, the cases presented for discussion included the following:

Dr. Nottingham brought forward a case of extraordinary wound of the penis. He said it was more properly a Read more

Don’t mess with an electric eel

gymnotus electricusFew creatures have provided such enduring fascination to the medical profession as the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus), a creature capable of delivering an electric shock of up to 850 volts (and 1 amp) on demand.  Though remarkable, they are not unique: several other species of electric fish are known, including the electric catfish found in the Nile (… Read more