A receipt for making a rupture

In the 1820s the British physician John Cheyne made a special study of the numerous ways in which soldiers tried to get themselves invalided out of service. Cheyne is best known today as one of the first to identify Cheyne-Stokes respiration, a pattern of disordered breathing which is a useful diagnostic sign in identifying several … Continue reading A receipt for making a rupture

Robot hearts

The horrors of nineteenth-century medicine will return to this blog tomorrow, but here’s a brief intermezzo: The Guardian recently printed a long extract from The Matter of the Heart, my new book about the history of heart surgery. It’s an abbreviated version of the book’s final chapter, which looks at some of the cutting-edge technology used by  today’s … Continue reading Robot hearts

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