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

The bladder shrimp

On the eve of the Battle of Waterloo the Duke of Wellington was making a final inspection of his troops when he spotted one of the medical officers smoking a cigar. The Duke confronted him. “Well! Hennen, is that the fortieth cigar today?” “No, my lord,” replied the surgeon, “it is only the thirty-eighth.” The chain-smoking surgeon was John Hennen, known … Continue reading The bladder shrimp

The eye magnet

Today’s story first appeared in the Observationes, a collection of case reports by the German surgeon Wilhelm Fabry (1560-1634).  Fabry, also known as Fabricius Hildanus, is sometimes referred to as the ‘father of German surgery’ and was a methodical and scientific operator whose careful descriptions of his work exerted a powerful influence on later generations … Continue reading The eye magnet

The lucky Prussian

Maximilian Joseph von Chelius was a prominent 19th-century German surgeon who had a significant influence on medics right across Europe. His lectures were frequently quoted in the London and Edinburgh journals, and his textbook Handbuch der Chirurgie, translated into English as A System of Surgery, was widely used. In a chapter devoted to chest injuries, … Continue reading The lucky Prussian

In hospital for 34 years

In December 1886 the Cincinnati Enquirer published an exclusive from its New York correspondent. He had uncovered an amazing story at one of the city’s hospitals – the death of its longest-standing patient. She’d been an inmate there for three decades, but that wasn’t even the most interesting part of the tale: When Nellie Steele … Continue reading In hospital for 34 years