The snuff-eating nose centipede

Here’s an alarming pair of cases reported in the first volume of the Medical Essays and Observations, published in 1764: A woman of a good heal constitution, and about thirty-six years old, began to complain of a fixed pain in the lower and right side of her forehead. The adjective ‘heal’, an archaic form, means … Continue reading The snuff-eating nose centipede

A leech on the eyeball

Bloodletting is an inescapable theme of a medical blog set largely in the nineteenth century. Although venesection (opening a vein) was frequently used, for minor complaints the weapon of choice was the leech, which could extract a small amount of blood relatively painlessly. Doctors varied the numbers of leeches applied according to the severity of … Continue reading A leech on the eyeball

The mystery of the poisonous neckerchief

In 1873 The Medical Times and Register published an unusual case report from one  Joseph G. Richardson, a doctor from Philadelphia: J. B., a farmer, 74 years old, residing near Darby, in the vicinity of Philadelphia, came under my care in the out-patient department of the Pennsylvania Hospital, January 27, 1873. His neck, face, and … Continue reading The mystery of the poisonous neckerchief

Sleeping with the fishes

One of the overwhelming priorities of medicine in the eighteenth century was the improvement of resuscitation methods. Drowning was a major cause of death, and physicians realised they needed better emergency procedures to treat those who had fallen into rivers, canals and lakes. Medical societies were set up in several European countries to investigate possible … Continue reading Sleeping with the fishes

The turpentine vapour bath

The year is 1874, and American medics are deeply concerned about the activities of quacks and unlicensed doctors who are damaging the reputation of the profession. One particularly worrying case is reported by The Medical and Surgical Reporter: The following account is sent us by a correspondent in Baltimore. It is needless to say that … Continue reading The turpentine vapour bath