Scalpel, suture and Swedish turnips

Here’s an intriguing article from the American Medico-Surgical Bulletin of 1895, summarising a paper published in a German journal:

intestinal anastomosis using potato plates

The author reports a successful case of strangulated hernia, in which, after resection of about 3 inches of intestine, he performed lateral intestinal anastomosis. 

Strangulated hernia is a condition in which a loop of the bowel protrudes through a hole in … Read more

The other Horatio Nelson

The Canadian physician Henry Horatio Nelson was born six years after the Battle of Trafalgar, so it does not take much imagination to work out how his parents chose his middle name.  Perhaps understandably, he chose to call himself Horace Nelson, a name less likely to cause his patients to smirk.

Although little known today, Horace Nelson was a pioneer … Read more

The seventy-year-old mother-to-be

late pregnancyHere’s a truly strange case that was reported in the Journal de Médécine de Paris in 1881. It concerns an elderly woman who was believed to have fallen pregnant. Such tales were commonly reported in the early medical literature – there are many to be found in 18th-century journals, for instance – but these examples were often supported … Read more

The amphibious infant

amphibious infantIt is June 1873, and some very odd tidings are published in the latest edition of the Medical Notes and Queries:

A story of an “Amphibious Infant” has found its way into some of the London papers. The subject is introduced thus:— “Strange results of very early training: a baby that paddles around under water for twenty-five minutes; a Read more

The ‘first’ heart transplant

the art of medicine james hardyDo you know who performed the world’s first heart transplant ? The surgeon usually credited with the feat is the South African Christiaan Barnard, who on December 3rd 1967 gave Louis Washkansky, a 54-year-old grocer, a new heart. The fiftieth anniversary of that celebrated operation falls later this year – but Barnard was not, in fact, the first person to … Read more

The dentist who made the blind see

Lost sight restored by dental treatmentOne interesting aspect of nineteenth-century medicine is the fact that many clinicians were convinced that every ailment could be traced ultimately to the same cause. Some were sure that most illnesses were triggered by problems with the liver; others that a disordered digestion could manifest in symptoms all over the body.  Towards the end of the century, French physicians became … Read more

Snake poo salesman

In 1862 an Edinburgh-trained physician, Dr James Hastings, published a slim volume about the treatment of tuberculosis and other diseases of the lung. It advocates the use of substances which much of the profession would regard as unorthodox, as he acknowledges in his preface:

It has been suggested that the peculiar character of these agents may possibly prove a bar Read more