Medicated cigarettes: the new panacea

Inhalation of medicine by smoking cigarettesNineteenth-century opinion on the subject of smoking was sharply divided.  On the one hand there were many prominent doctors who condemned the practice as unhealthy, and even suggested that it caused cancers of the mouth; on the other, there were plenty of physicians who believed that smoking eased coughs and other respiratory disorders by promoting the production of mucus.

In … Read more

The port-wine enema

Alcoholic drinks were an important part of the physician’s armoury until surprisingly recently.  In the early years of the twentieth century, brandy (or whiskey, in the US) was still being administered to patients as a stimulant after they had undergone major surgery.  Every tipple you can think of – from weak ale to strong spirits – has been prescribed at … Read more

The human pincushion

HIstory of a patient from whom four hundred needles were extracted

This extraordinary tale appeared in The Medico-Chirurgical Review in 1825:

Rachel Hertz had lived in the enjoyment of good health up to her fourteenth year; she was then of a fair complexion, and rather of the sanguineous temperament. In August 1807, she was seized with a violent attack of cholic, which induced her to apply to Professor Hecholdt, and this Read more

Cycling will give you heart disease

Cycling as a cause of heart diseaseMarch 1895, and in the pages of The Lancet, Dr George Herschell is worried.  Very worried.

Cycling, rationally pursued, is one of the most health-giving forms of amusement; but when indulged in to excess, or under improper conditions, one of the most pernicious. I have been led to choose this subject for my paper from the fact that my Read more

The guillotine – life after death?

On the probable sensations of the head after being severed from the bodyIn 1799, as the French Revolution entered its final phase and Napoleon prepared to seize power, European medics engaged in a pertinent debate.  The Medical and Physical Journal reports:

Among other singular questions lately agitated in France and Germany, the following is not the least curious: Whether the separated head of a person suffering on the scaffold be still, for Read more

The woman who could smell with her feet

Case of catalepsy with transposition of the sensesNews of a curious case reaches London from France:

Mademoiselle Melanie had enjoyed good health up to the age of twenty-one, when she began to suffer from dry cough, with pain in the chest and headache; in January, 1841, she was attacked by pleurisy of the right side, and since then has continued to suffer from pain in that region.Read more

Spiders in her eyes

Case of spiders discharged from the eyesA previous post about the boy who vomited millipedes proved surprisingly popular – so when I came across this tale of a girl who cried spiders it seemed too good to waste.

On February 5th 1840, Dr Lopez, a physician from Mobile, Alabama, visited a young woman in Charleston.  The previous week she had been staying with friends in … Read more