Catching a disease through an electric wire

Here’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 … Continue reading Catching a disease through an electric wire

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. Sometimes the body of the victim was the only thing that had been burnt, … Continue reading The combustible countess

Your cooker will give you typhoid

There’s a menace lurking in your kitchen.  From The Lancet, 1868: 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 … Continue reading Your cooker will give you typhoid

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 … Continue reading That’s one way to give up smoking

Injured by the 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 … Continue reading Injured by the imagination

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: 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 … Continue reading Skipping-ropes: the silent killer