Asleep while she gave birth

Things have been rather quiet on this blog in recent weeks, so apologies if you’ve been missing your regular fix of wince-inducing medical history. I’ve been busy working on a book which will be published in a few months’ time.  The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth (and other curiosities from the history of medicine) brings … Continue reading Asleep while she gave birth

William Harvey at the Royal College of Physicians

The Royal College of Physicians in London, which celebrates its 500th anniversary later this year, is currently staging a small exhibition devoted to one of its most celebrated former Fellows. William Harvey was a prominent member of the College in the 17th century, when he was also personal physician to Charles I.  In 1628 he … Continue reading William Harvey at the Royal College of Physicians

Mr Trought’s tobacco enema

In June 1828 the Lancet published a pair of short case histories that contemporary readers must have found rather confusing. Printed on the same page, they both dealt with cases in which a strangulated hernia had been treated with a tobacco enema (yes, really: an infusion of tobacco administered via the anus). In the first … Continue reading Mr Trought’s tobacco enema

Plagiarising the past

In 1850 a doctor from New Buckenham in Norfolk, Horace Howard, submitted this short case report to The Lancet: The patient, Maria N— aged twenty-three years, had experienced for a long time much irritation about the kidneys and urinary apparatus, for which different palliative remedies were administered, but with little relief. The patient was lost … Continue reading Plagiarising the past

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