Unfortunate injury of the decade

wound of penisHere’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 it was more properly a Read more

The hidden dangers of a Victorian Christmas

Narrative accidentIn 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 incident: 

An accident, fortunately Read more

The perils of the Christmas pudding

plum puddingContinuing this blog’s recent Christmas theme, here’s a short article originally printed in the Medical Adviser in 1825.  It was at about this time that one of the staples of the modern Christmas dinner – the Christmas pudding – began to be a regular feature of festive meals. More usually referred to as a plum pudding, this boiled pudding containing … Read more

Death by Christmas dinner

LacerationIf you haven’t yet bought everything for your Christmas dinner, this tale from almost 200 years ago may cause you to remove a few items from your shopping list.  Published in the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions in 1814 by Thomas Chevalier, a distinguished surgeon and polymath also notable for his English translation of Pascal’s Pensées, it concerns a teenage boy who … Read more

In praise of temperance

intoxicationIt seems appropriate on a Friday to share this warning about the dangers of binge drinking, from William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine.  Published in 1808, and aimed at the patient rather than the doctor, this book offers advice on treating the commonest ailments, as well as such matters as clothing, diet and personal hygiene.

Dr Buchan was evidently no fan … Read more

An ‘unnatural propensity’ and its perils

heart onanismUntil the early twentieth century, medicine had little to say about heart disease.  Although the best specialists of the nineteenth century became remarkably adept at distinguishing between different types of congenital defects using little more than the stethoscope and physical symptoms, they remained almost clueless about acquired conditions – and, in particular, what caused them.  This led to several strange … Read more

Stay of execution?

Effects of tight lacingAn angry Dr Tuson from Fitzrovia writes to the London Medical Journal in 1831.  He begins with an apology: 

Though I may incur the displeasure of many of the female part of the community in investigating a subject, the province of which they may consider peculiarly their own, yet on perusing my observations they will perceive that an anxious solicitude Read more

The perils of toast

An account of the extraction of a foreign body from the rectumA cautionary tale from the Medical Facts and Observations, published in 1795:

On Tuesday, the 25th of March last, a French gentleman was sent to me by an Apothecary in this neighbourhood, complaining of a pungent, hot, and irritating sensation in the rectum ; which was considerably augmented during every evacuation per anum. These painful symptoms had commenced on Read more

It makes you go blind, you know

a case of priapismNineteenth-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