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

Why children should never wear hats

Catechism of health title pageI recently came across a charming little medical book aimed at children, and first published in Germany in the 18th century. Its author, Bernhard Christoph Faust, was personal physician to an obscure German nobleman, the Count of Schaumburg-Lippe in lower Saxony. In 1792 he published Catechism of Health, a short work which uses the question-and-answer form of the Christian … Read more

Catching a disease through an electric wire

Galvanic operationHere’s something to get unnecessarily worried about: apparently it’s possible to catch a disease through an electric wire!

As reported in the Medico-Chirurgical Review for 1833, a doctor treating a patient for a persistent case of ague (malaria) decided to try the fashionable galvanic therapy.  This entailed a regular course of electric shocks administered to the patient’s body.

The Read more

The combustible countess

Spontaneous human combustion became a fashionable topic in the early nineteenth century, when a number of sensational presumed cases were reported in the popular press.  Charles Dickens even killed off Krook, the alcoholic rag dealer in Bleak House, in this manner.

BH combustion

Sometimes the body of the victim was the only thing that had been burnt, suggesting that the combustion … Read more

Your cooker will give you typhoid

There’s a menace lurking in your kitchen.  From The Lancet, 1868:

cast iron

When the attention of the Academy of Sciences of Paris was drawn, some time since, by M. Carret, one of the physicians of the Hotel Dieu of Chambery, in several papers, to the possible evil consequences of the use of cast-iron stoves, but little interest was excited in Read more

That’s one way to give up smoking

The museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, in Dublin, contains the picture of a man whose face was eaten away by a pig, while he was lying in a state of intoxication.  The entire nose, both cheeks, and parts of both ears, in fact, all the most eatable parts of his face, were chewed off by the animal; nevertheless, Read more

Injured by the imagination

imagination

Forget drinking in pregnancy; here’s something far more dangerous.  From the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1695:

A lady was delivered of a girl, with a wound in her breast, above 4 fingers long, extended obliquely downwards, over the whole breast.  I found not only the wound outwardly in the skin, but after a nearer examination, I perceived Read more

Skipping-ropes: the silent killer

April 29th, 1905, and the ‘Minor Comments’ section of the Journal of the American Medical Association has a stark warning:

Skipping rope

Even among the apparently milder forms of children’s athletics there are some that are capable of producing injury or are even deadly at times.  The newspapers have recently reported the death from heart failure of three children in a skipping-rope Read more