The man who coughed up a knife

Here’s an arresting story from 1870, reported to the Chicago Medical Times by a Dr J.F. Snyder:  James Thompson, sixty years of age, stout and robust, usually of active habits, suddenly commenced declining in health, without apparent cause. When I was consulted, he had been, as he expressed it, “under the weather for five or … Continue reading The man who coughed up a knife

The glow-in-the-dark Easter feast

An essay by Dr Robert Graves of Dublin, published in The London Medical and Surgical Journal in 1835, contains this seasonal gem: When three Roman youths, residing at Padua, had bought a lamb, and had eaten part of it on Easter day, 1562, several pieces of the remainder kept till the day following, shone like so many candles, when … Continue reading The glow-in-the-dark Easter feast

The human piggy bank

Eels seem to have featured regularly in this blog, for some reason. First there was the physician who had a shocking experience with an electric eel, and more recently we’ve had the dubious tale of the boy with an eel in his stomach. Here’s another story involving an ingested eel, and much more besides.  In … Continue reading The human piggy bank

A suicidal machine

In 1837 The Lancet reported a cause of death previously unknown in the annals of medical science.  Its report begins:  The following is an account of the post mortem examination of the body of Mr. Robert Cocking, aged sixty-one, who fell with a suicidal machine called a parachute, from the cord of a balloon which ascended from Vauxhall Gardens, on … Continue reading A suicidal machine

The man with three testicles

In September 1842 a young man called William Howard went to the army recruiting depot at Coventry, hoping to join the 35th Infantry Regiment.  As is usual on these occasions, he was examined by the medical officer, one Dr Macann.  The good doctor had a surprise in store, as he later reported to the Provincial … Continue reading The man with three testicles

Jaundice and night blindness

English is littered with words which were originally medical in their application but which have found broader or figurative usage. Melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic are three good examples – all deriving from the terms for specific bodily fluids and the temperaments associated with them. Another is jaundiced, often used to mean ‘hostile’ or ‘prejudiced’, but … Continue reading Jaundice and night blindness

Cured by a lightning bolt

On April 16th 1828 a ship called the New York sailed from its eponymous home port destined for Liverpool. She carried a full complement of passengers and cargo and – as reported in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal shortly afterwards, on the morning of the 19th, was struck by lightning, which shattered the main royal mast, … Continue reading Cured by a lightning bolt