Such is the fortitude of females

operation for a new noseRhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical operations, known to have been practised by the Indian surgeon Sushruta in the 1st millennium BC, and with great sophistication in the 17th century by the Italian physician Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who created new noses from the muscles of the upper arm.

This case reported in the 1830s in The New Read more

The cod-liver oil binge

Lupus cured by enormous quantities of cod-liver oilLupus is an autoimmune disease characterised by a skin rash, joint pain and fatigue.  Although poorly understood even today, it is known to be caused by an anomalous response of the body’s immune system, which erroneously begins to attack otherwise healthy tissue.

In 1852, when the Canada Medical Journal reported this case, the condition was widely (and incorrectly) believed to … Read more

The self-performed caesarian

Case of self-performed caesarian sectionA jaw-dropping case was reported in The New York Medical and Physical Journal in 1823, one in which a patient conducted an operation on herself.  The best-known example of self-operation occurred in 1961, when a Soviet surgeon working on an Antarctic base was forced to take out his own infected appendix; this much earlier case took place in more … Read more

Opium – perfect for babies

Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup a poisonIn 1849 Mrs Charlotte Winslow of Bangor in Maine invented a medicinal product for children which was as successful in its day as Calpol is now.  Any comparison must, however, end there.

Mrs Winslow's soothing syrup advertisement‘Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup’ was marketed as an effective analgesic, to be given to teething infants and older children with indigestion.  A contemporary advertisement declared that ‘it is … Read more

Fingers crossed

separated portion of a finger successfully reattachedA short but – to me – fascinating article from the Medico-Chirurgical Review. Surgeons are now quite adept at reattaching fingers, toes or even entire hands after cases of accidental amputation, assuming the separated part has been carefully preserved: celebrated cases include Arsenio Matias, who had both hands reattached after an industrial accident, and Everett Knowles, the … Read more

All’s well that ends well

An Account of a very remarkable Case of a Boy, who, notwithstanding that a considerable Part of his Intestines was forced out by the Fall of a Cart upon him, and afterwards cut off, recovered, and continued wellA grisly tale, but one with a happy ending: John Nedham wrote to the Philosophical Transactions in 1756 with news of a road traffic accident and its consequences:

On the 3d of January 1755, Mr. N. was called to the son of Lancelot Watts (a day-labourer, living at Brunsted) a servant boy to Mr. Pile, a farmer at Westwick, near Read more

It makes you go blind, you know

a case of priapismNineteenth-century medical journals were much preoccupied with the sin of self-harm.  One authority on mental illnesses even suggested that masturbation was the leading cause of insanity in asylum patients.  An edition of the Canada Medical Journal published in 1870 contains a typical report:

Case 1st: J.C., aged 18. Was called to see him in the fall of 1868 Read more