A festive night in a Victorian emergency department

Christmas is always a difficult time of year for practitioners of emergency medicine. In the UK, accident and emergency departments brace themselves for a flood of injuries caused by alcohol; most years there will be at least one newspaper article about drinking culture in the UK and how it is placing intolerable strain on the … Continue reading A festive night in a Victorian emergency department

Benjamin Rush in The Lancet

Physician, chemist, writer and revolutionary: Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a remarkable man in a remarkable age. Arguably the greatest physician America had yet produced, he was an early and tireless advocate for vaccination, an authority on epidemic disease and wrote the first American textbook on mental health. He was also controversial: during a dreadful outbreak … Continue reading Benjamin Rush in The Lancet

A medical duel

Medical disputes could be dangerous affairs in the old days. Two hundred years ago two physicians settled their differences not in the pages of the medical journals, but by fighting a duel. This arresting story appeared in a January 1828 edition of The London Medical Gazette: A Duel was fought last Saturday about three o’clock in the afternoon, between Dr. … Continue reading A medical duel

A Victorian hospital Christmas

As a seasonal antidote to all the misery and medical disasters usually documented on this blog, here is something genuinely heart-warming. The Victorians were particularly good at Christmas – they invented most of the domestic Christmas traditions we enjoy today, from the meal to the tree.  A story published in the British Medical Journal in … Continue reading A Victorian hospital Christmas

Hard to stomach

In 1823 The Lancet’s regular summary of goings-on at the London hospitals contained this interesting report of an early public demonstration of the stomach pump.  The experiment documented here took place at Guy’s Hospital: Friday, Nov. 21. At half past one o’clock the operating theatre was crowded to excess, in consequence of its having been stated … Continue reading Hard to stomach

The bird and the bees

In August 1868 the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting in Norwich.  One of the members invited to present a paper was Lydia Becker, an amateur astronomer and botanist; among her accomplishments she could count a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society and the respect of Charles Darwin, with … Continue reading The bird and the bees