“Oh, I’ll tell you another time”

In 1811 the novelist Fanny Burney underwent a mastectomy for suspected breast cancer. The operation was a total success: she lived for another 28 years without any recurrence of the tumour. Burney recorded her experience in a searing letter to her sister Esther. It’s a masterpiece of descriptive writing, an account so vivid that every … Continue reading “Oh, I’ll tell you another time”

The greatest phenomenon that nature has known

In 1849 a Spanish journal, La crónica de los hospitales, published a case supposed to have occurred some forty years earlier in the Mexican port of Veracruz – at the time, a Spanish colony. It was recorded in private notes made in 1809 by Dr Faustino Rodriguez, a distinguished practitioner of the city, but for … Continue reading The greatest phenomenon that nature has known

Born under a manger

In 1863 a surgeon from the small German town of Gräfenhainichen, Herr Geissler, wrote to one of the Berlin journals to share an extraordinary tale he had encountered in his practice. The publication to which he submitted the case  Monatsschrift für Geburtskunde und Frauenkrankheiten, was devoted to gynaecology and obstetrics and indeed this story is about childbirth … Continue reading Born under a manger

A practical joke

Some of the greatest advances in nineteenth-century surgery were made by military surgeons. British surgeons were not exactly short of opportunities: the country’s military forces began the century at war with France, and ended it fighting the Boers, with barely a peaceful year in between. While battlefield injuries provided horribly frequent opportunities for improving surgical … Continue reading A practical joke