The golden pin

This story has a delightful combination of youthful misadventure and surgical ingenuity. OK, so ‘delightful’ might be a bit of a stretch, but I suspect you’ve never read anything quite like it. The case was first published in a French medical journal, the Journal des Connaissances Médico-chirurgicales, in 1847.

The headline translates as ‘Memoir and observations on a new … Read more


In 1882 a young doctor from Clayton West in Yorkshire had his first paper published in a major medical journal.  Dr Duncan Alistair MacGregor was not interested in making a name for himself: after completing his training in Edinburgh he had set up in practice as a country doctor, a vocation he would follow with dedication for another 40 years. … Read more

Making a mark

Foreign body in Wharton's ductOne evening in 1877 a medical student at the University of Paris, a young man by the name of Vielle, made a little piece of medical history – although perhaps not in a way he might have hoped for. This is how he later recalled the experience:

About 10 o’clock P.M., April 6th, 1877, I felt a smarting pain, heat, Read more

Mr Dendy’s egg-cup case

Discovery of a large egg-cupIn 1834 the Lancet published a wonderfully unusual article by Walter Dendy, a surgeon from Blackfriars in London. The heading at the top of each page refers to it simply as ‘Mr Dendy’s Egg-Cup Case’ – a splendid description of a splendid case:

Mr Adams, a man 60 years of age, had been afflicted with inguinal hernia 25 years, which, Read more

An abominable, disgusting habit

A course of lectures on painThere are plenty of common myths about Victorian social mores, but anything you have read about their disapproval of onanism (masturbation) is likely to be true. Nineteenth-century medics were apparently united in their condemnation of the practice, which was believed to cause not just blindness, but all manner of serious physical ailments – many of them potentially fatal. One extraordinary … Read more

Death by barley

Death from a portion of barley beard under the tongueNineteenth-century medical journals are not short of ghastly occupational injuries. Factories, building sites and the new railways were frightening places, and there is barely an issue of a major journal that does not contain at least one article about terrible accidents caused by inadequate safety arrangements in the workplace. But this example, published in the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal Read more