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 those affections.
Although … Read more
The Scottish surgeon James Syme (1799-1870) has been described as the boldest and most original operator of the end of the pre-anaesthetic era. He was fast and accurate, having begun his career at a period when the ideal operation should take no more than a minute or two. And he was a superb and innovative technician: one of his operations, … Read more
This dramatic headline from an early edition of The Lancet caught my eye:
It’s a great illustration of the changing nature of surgical risk. If today a patient died after having a nose job, it would probably be on the front page of the newspapers; death is not an expected complication of a nose reconstruction. But 1827 was a very … Read more
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 to convey the … Read more
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 The New … Read more
A jaw-dropping case was reported in The New York Medical and Physical Journal in 1823, one in which a patient conducted an operation on herself. The best-known example of self-operation occurred in 1961, when a Soviet surgeon working on an Antarctic base was forced to take out his own infected appendix; this much earlier case took place in more … Read more
Bright sunlight has long been known to be bad for the eyes. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can cause a range of problems, including cataracts and cancers. In 1802 a Dr Whyte, a physician with long experience of practice in Egypt and other hot climates, wrote an article for The Medical and Physical Journal about the dangers of sunlight in … Read more
A weighty matter was reported in the Maryland and Virginia Medical Journal in 1860:
One of the most extraordinary operations in the annals of surgery has been performed recently in the extreme West, and deserves to be recorded on account of its boldness, successful result, and for the judicious method of procedure adopted by the surgeon. A man named Bates, … Read more
Alcoholic drinks were an important part of the physician’s armoury until surprisingly recently. In the early years of the twentieth century, brandy (or whiskey, in the US) was still being administered to patients as a stimulant after they had undergone major surgery. Every tipple you can think of – from weak ale to strong spirits – has been prescribed at … Read more
The Canada Medical Journal for 1870 has news from the Raj:
We mentioned the other day the severe injury sustained by one of the young lions at the park from a mauling of its tail by one of the tigers in the adjoining compartment. At first there was reason to believe that no dangerous results would follow, but on Friday … Read more