A nineteenth-century hacking scandal

In November 1870 a London surgeon took the unusual step of writing anonymously to The Times to complain about his son’s headmaster. The son in question was a boy at Rugby School, and the letter was headlined ‘Rugby and its Football’: Sir,–– I use the expression because to my mind the game as it is … Continue reading A nineteenth-century hacking scandal

The perils of being a writer

Having spent most of the last year sitting in seclusion writing and editing my first book, I was amused to come across an essay by the eighteenth-century Swiss physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot.  Tissot is perhaps best known today for his work L’Onanisme, the first scholarly examination of masturbation (executive summary: he was not a fan).  In … Continue reading The perils of being a writer

Conceived by a bullet

There are many cases of supposed virgin births in the early medical literature, but few are as wonderfully unlikely as this one published in The Lancet in early 1875:  The following rich gynaecological contribution is reported in the columns of the American Medical Weekly for Nov. 7th, 1874, by L. G. Capers, M.D., Vicksburg, Mississippi. … Continue reading Conceived by a bullet

A head of wheat in the bladder

In December 1871 Dr B. B. Leonard, a general practitioner from West Liberty, Ohio, was summoned to examine ‘J.J.’, a 41-year-old farm worker from a neighbouring village. This is what he subsequently reported to the Cincinnati Lancet and Observer: On the 3rd of July, Mr. J was binding wheat in the field, and when about … Continue reading A head of wheat in the bladder

Unfortunate injury of the decade

Here’s a story published 150 years ago in the British Medical Journal which made me wince on at least four separate occasions. At a seminar at the Liverpool Medical Institution in January 1863, the cases presented for discussion included the following: Dr. Nottingham brought forward a case of extraordinary wound of the penis. He said … Continue reading Unfortunate injury of the decade

The hidden dangers of a Victorian Christmas

In the last (I promise) of my trilogy of Christmas disasters, here is a warning of the dangers of festive decorations. This Christmas tree-related incident from 1849 was documented in The Household Narrative, the almanac published by Charles Dickens between 1850 and 1855.  In the section tastefully entitled ‘Accident and Disaster’, Dickens reports the following … Continue reading The hidden dangers of a Victorian Christmas