A chainsaw to the spine

In the early nineteenth century surgery was a primitive affair, generally limited to a few commonly performed operations. Most people know about agonising amputations, or the (possibly even more agonising) operations for bladder stones and mastectomy; others in the surgeon’s repertoire included basic procedures to remove cataracts or to release pressure in the skull. But … Continue reading A chainsaw to the spine

Spirits go straight to your head

I recently stumbled across this intriguing snippet in John Cooke’s A Treatise on Nervous Diseases (1824): I am informed by Mr. Carlisle, that “a few years since a man was brought dead into the Westminster Hospital who had just drunk a quart of gin for a wager. The evidences of death being quite conclusive, he was immediately examined; and … Continue reading Spirits go straight to your head

Broken glass and boiled cabbage

Here’s a case reported in the London Medical Gazette in 1839 which we must file under ‘unbelievably stupid things done by young men’. It comes originally from a book published in 1787 by Antoine Portal, a distinguished physician who was personal doctor to Louis XVIII, and the founder of the French Royal Academy of Medicine. He … Continue reading Broken glass and boiled cabbage

The man who peed a bullet

Gunshot wounds have always been a particular challenge for the medic. Some of the oldest surgical manuals contain advice on removing balls or bullets lodged superficially – it was often possible to remove missiles from soft tissue or bone near the skin. But if they had penetrated deeper into body cavities or damaged internal organs … Continue reading The man who peed a bullet