Conceived by a bullet

There are many cases of supposed virgin births in the early medical literature, but few are as wonderfully unlikely as this one published in The Lancet in early 1875:  The following rich gynaecological contribution is reported in the columns of the American Medical Weekly for Nov. 7th, 1874, by L. G. Capers, M.D., Vicksburg, Mississippi. … Continue reading Conceived by a bullet

The mysterious bullet in the heart

In 1852 The Monthly Journal of Medical Science published a report from Burma, where British forces had just begun to fight the Second Anglo-Burmese War.  They landed on April 12th and captured the city of Rangoon shortly afterwards, setting up a field hospital in a priest’s house requisitioned for the purpose. Six surgeons travelled with … Continue reading The mysterious bullet in the heart

Rattlesnakes and brandy

Around 7,000 people in the US are bitten by venomous snakes every year. Many of these are rattlesnake bites, but thanks to modern medicine there are only a handful of fatalities. The most important breakthrough of the last century was the invention of antivenin (also known as antivenom) – a remedy made by injecting rattlesnake … Continue reading Rattlesnakes and brandy

Like an elastic ball

The great French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren was known to his unfortunate juniors as ‘the Napoleon of surgery’ and ‘the brigand of the Hôtel Dieu’, the Paris hospital where he reigned supreme. While he was a difficult character, he was also very good. His name is mainly associated today with Dupuytren’s Contracture, a condition which causes the … Continue reading Like an elastic ball

The man with the wax face

In May 1884 The Lancet’s Paris correspondent reported the following:  There is to be seen at Landrecies, in the Department of the North, an invalid artillery soldier, who was wounded in the late Franco-German War, when he was horribly mutilated by the bursting of a Prussian shell. The man’s face was literally blown off, including … Continue reading The man with the wax face