An intestinal… mouse?

An extraordinary caseAs regular readers of this blog may be aware, early medical journals often carried tales of unlikely creatures found living inside the human body.  Examples include beetles found in the bladder, millipedes and winged insects in the stomach, and the curious case of the girl with spiders in her eyes.

This is, however, the only case I’ve found which … Read more

Mütter’s operation – plastic surgery, 19th-century style

Case of deformity cured by Mutter's operationIn 1855 the editor of the Western Lancet, Dr T. Wood, published an article in his own journal on the subject of plastic (reconstructive) surgery. This clinical sub-discipline was still in its infancy, but a handful of surgeons had achieved wonders in treating severely disfigured patients.  The leading American expert was Thomas Dent Mütter, who had spent a … Read more

The boy who vomited his own twin

A foetus vomited by a boyThis delightful case was reported in the London Medical and Surgical Journal in 1835, having previously appeared in a Greek journal, the Sother.  The original article was by a Dr Ardoin – a Frenchman, it appears, in practice in Greece.  His patient was a young boy called Demetrius Stamatelli:

On the 19th July last, when M. Ardoin was called Read more

Oshkosh, by gosh

Severe fracture of the skullHere’s a spectacular head injury (and recovery) reported in the Transactions of the Wisconsin State Medical Society in 1869.  This lucky, lucky man survived an accident which left him with a large portion of his brain hanging out of his skull. The unusual case was reported by Dr Linde of Oshkosh, Wisconsin – a city perhaps best known today as … Read more

The mystery of the exploding teeth

Update: this story will be featured in my new book, The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine, available in late 2018. For more information click here.

Exploding teethHere’s an engaging little mystery which first appeared in the pages of Dental Cosmos – the first American scholarly journal for dentists – in 1860.  … Read more

The man who ate chalk

52 foreign bodies

In November 1774 the following extraordinary case was presented to the French Academy of Surgery, and subsequently reported in Paul Eve’s A Collection of remarkable cases in Surgery (1857):

André Bazile, a galley-slave, aged 38 years, a man of ravenous appetite, who would often eat chalk, plaster or earth, with his food, was received into the Marine Hospital of Brest, Read more

Trees do not grow in humans

In June 1879 the Chicago Telegraph made quite a splash with a story published under this headline:Extraordinary case

Probably the most wonderful phenomenon that has ever come under the observation of the medical fraternity of this city developed itself at the Montcalm House, on Erie street, in the person of a boy named Herbert G. Schwartz.  Schwartz senior is a farmer, Read more

Killed by shaving

Case of sudden deathHere’s a case which wouldn’t surprise a modern medic, but which caused considerable puzzlement when it occurred in the first half of the nineteenth century: a patient who died while being shaved. This tale, first reported in Marryat’s London Metropolitan Magazine, was cited by one Dr Joseph Comstock in a letter to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in … Read more