The spermatorrhoea alarm

In 1843 the Provincial Medical Journal published a landmark paper by Dr W.H. Ranking from Suffolk. It was a ‘landmark’ in that it was the first full-length publication in English to discuss a new disease that was soon to become the scourge of the male population: spermatorrhoea.  Or, in plain English, involuntary ejaculation. The person … Continue reading The spermatorrhoea alarm

The lithophagus

Unless you’re a marine biologist, the chances are that you’ve never used the word ‘lithophagus’.  You may have eaten one, however: Lithophaga is a genus of mussels, some of whose species are edible, often served in a garlic, white wine and parsley sauce with plenty of crusty bread. Delicious. But I digress. ‘Lithophagus’ comes from … Continue reading The lithophagus

Born in a cesspit

This strange little tale appeared in the London Medical and Surgical Journal in June 1832:  A curious case of this description became the subject of investigation at the Bow-street Police Office, a few days ago. Interestingly, this crime was not being investigated by what we would regard as the ‘official’ police. London’s Metropolitan Police had been set … Continue reading Born in a cesspit

A harrowing incident

In 1873 the Chicago Medical Journal published this article by a Dr Stewart from Muscatine, a small Iowa town on the banks of the Mississippi that would later become famous as the world-leading manufacturer of pearl buttons. The article’s matter-of-fact headline scarcely does justice of the drama to come: Anthony B., a lad aged 17, … Continue reading A harrowing incident

A week entombed in a snowdrift

In a week that’s seen snow across much of Britain and record low temperatures in parts of the US, this story from the Annals of Medicine for 1799 seems particularly appropriate: A remarkable and well-authenticated case, of a woman surviving nearly eight days buried in the snow, without food, has occurred this spring, near Impington, in Cambridgeshire. It’s … Continue reading A week entombed in a snowdrift