The man with the rubber jaw

Maxillofacial surgeons are some of the most ridiculously overqualified people on the planet. In the UK it is compulsory for them to hold degrees in both medicine and dentistry, and they can only practise after well over a decade of training. This enviable expertise equips them to undertake a wide range of procedures on the face, … Continue reading The man with the rubber jaw

Bleeding you well

More from Lorenz Heister’s surgical textbook Chirurgie, published in 1718, on which I have written before. The practice of bloodletting, also known as phlebotomy, was a staple treatment for millennia and still had influential advocates at the end of the nineteenth century.  Most people will be aware that doctors used to bleed their patients, but … Continue reading Bleeding you well

The eye-brush

Scarification is a medical practice which was popular until the early nineteenth century and which thankfully has now been consigned to the history books (and blogs).  In concept similar to – but less dramatic than – bleeding, it entailed using a rough implement or blade to make abrasions on the surface of the body. In … Continue reading The eye-brush

The do-it-yourself hernia operation

In the nineteenth century medical attention was a luxury which had to be paid for, and which not all could afford.  What, then, would you do if you were living in abject poverty and developed a serious illness?  Many people put their faith in traditional remedies or prayer; a few took matters into their own … Continue reading The do-it-yourself hernia operation

Glass half-empty

The remarkable headline above graced the pages of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences in April 1849.  In case you’re wondering, the two injuries are not related: the author just thought he’d put his two most spectacular cases in the same article. Dr W.S.W Ruschenberger, surgeon to the US Navy, writes: While recently on … Continue reading Glass half-empty

Almost to the ground

An article from an 1831 edition of the London Medical Gazette begins unpromisingly:  Enlargement of the testes, scrotal tumors, and hydrocele, are common diseases to which the inhabitants of Tahiti, and other islands in the Southern Pacific, are subject; nor are they confined to the natives alone, as Europeans, after a long residence, are equally liable to … Continue reading Almost to the ground

The self-inflicted lithotomy

The output of the French baroque composer Marin Marais contains an oddity: a musical depiction of a surgical operation.  A piece from the fifth book of his Pieces de Viole is entitled Le Tableau de l’Opération de la Taille (Portrait of an Abdominal Operation – you can listen to it here), and is an attempt … Continue reading The self-inflicted lithotomy

Such is the fortitude of females

Rhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical operations, known to have been practised by the Indian surgeon Sushruta in the 1st millennium BC, and with great sophistication in the 17th century by the Italian physician Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who created new noses from the muscles of the upper arm. This case reported in the 1830s in … Continue reading Such is the fortitude of females