Rhinoplasty 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
November 5th has long been a busy night for practitioners of emergency medicine. Injuries caused by fireworks are as old as the things themselves – but one case reported by a Dr Beaumont in The Lancet in 1862 was a particularly lucky escape. The patient sustained a serious brain injury and somehow escaped with his life:
James W—, aged … Read more
Lupus 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
A 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
A peculiar case was reported to readers of The Lancet in 1856 by Dr Jonathan Green, the proprietor of a London business offering therapeutic sulphur baths. One day he encountered a mysterious patient who would not give her name:
She came to my establishment, as it were, determined not to be recognised, wrapped up in a shawl, veil, &c., and … Read more
In 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’ 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
I imagine that most doctors have had to treat at least one patient who has been unlucky or stupid enough to end up with a foreign body lodged in one of their orifices. Early journals are full of such cases, from pieces of metal swallowed by mistake to insects which took up lodgings in a patient’s ear.
In 1840 the … Read more
A 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
A 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
Nineteenth-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