On flatulence and Darwin

On flatulenceIn 1867 The Medical Press and Circular published a series of articles by the physician Dr John Chapman on a subject in which he was a world authority: flatulence. To be fair to Dr Chapman, he was also an influential publisher and an expert in psychology specialising in ‘neurotics’ – those we would now describe as suffering from anxiety disorders. … Read more

The man with 87 children

difficult parturitionThe English physician Samuel Merriman (1771-1852) was a leading authority on midwifery and the diseases of pregnancy.  His best-known work, published in 1814, was Synopsis of the Various Kinds of Difficult Parturition, a treatise on the dangers of childbirth which was translated into several languages.  In an engaging section on multiple births he includes a couple of wonderful anecdotes.… Read more

Reattached with a sticking plaster

Case of a severed fingerToday’s surgeons are quite adept at reattaching parts of the body when they have been severed. Fingers, hands and even entire arms have been successfully reunited with their owners. You might think that such feats were only made possible by the paraphernalia of the modern operating theatre: microscopes, superfine suture materials and so on. That’s not entirely true – here’s … Read more

The extra jaw

Western Lancet

A short story, this one, but it packs quite a punch. In 1855 the Western Lancet published a letter from an anonymous army officer serving in the Crimea:

A curious thing occurred yesterday. A sapper was brought from the trenches with his jaw broken, and the doctor told me there was a piece of it sticking out an inch and Read more