Victorian society was famously paranoid about the dangers of masturbation. For teachers, priests and those with responsibility for young people, it was a question of morals and the corruption of youth – but the medical profession also agreed that self-abuse was a vice with terrible consequences. The old cliché that the practice ‘makes you go blind’ was not said just … Read more
This (almost) incredible case report was printed in The Medical and Physical Journal in 1812, but dates from almost forty years earlier, first appearing in the French medical literature.
A galley-slave, a native of Nantes, entered the marine hospital at Brest the 5th of September, 1774. He complained of cough, pains in the stomach, and bowels; for which M. de … Read more
It’s been a while! I haven’t managed to post on this blog in months, thanks to a work-in-progress, a true-crime book, which has been keeping me occupied for most of the last year. Now, however, I find myself in compulsory quarantine having just moved back to the UK from Canada, and with time on my hands. So here is a … Read more
The unusual case histories posted on this blog often defy easy explanation. Indeed, I have an entire category of posts entitled ‘mysterious illnesses’. But however exotic the symptoms it is usually possible to suggest some arcane diagnosis to explain them.
Not this time.
This case from 1825 has me utterly stumped. It is, by the standards of two hundred years … Read more
Spooky goings-on were reported in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal in an article published in 1826. The author was Dr Caleb Crowther, a physician from Wakefield and superintendent of the city’s celebrated West Riding Pauper-Lunatic Asylum:
In December 1821, I was sent for to visit Mary Irvin, aged about 24, labouring under a severe attack of hysteria, said … Read more
It is not often that an author in a major medical journal thinks it necessary to state that they are not mad. But in 1891 Dr W.J. Galbraith, Professor of Surgery at Omaha Medical College, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported a case so extraordinary that he thought it necessary to offer a disclaimer by … Read more
A couple of months ago I wrote about a case from 1812 in which a patient with a massive facial injury was kept alive by lemonade injected into the rectum. Coincidentally I’ve just come across this report, published in 1878 in the American Practitioner, which covers rather similar territory. It aroused considerable interest at the time, since it … Read more
Here’s a medical short story with a sting in the tail, first told in the French Gazette des Hopitaux in October 1860. The author is a Monsieur de Saint-Laurent, a surgeon at the Hôpital Cochin in Paris.
L– George, aged four months, of a fine constitution and not emaciated, arrived at the hospital on June 20 1860. The mother told … Read more
Ulysse Trélat was a prominent French surgeon of the nineteenth century. He served as surgeon-in-chief to most of the major hospitals of Paris, published important textbooks and received the highest honour the French state can bestow, the Légion d’Honneur. His name still appears today in medical dictionaries as the co-inventor of an operation to treat cleft palate, and for the … Read more
In 1873 a physician from St Louis, Dr Walter Coles, recorded a particularly unusual home visit he had recently been asked to make. His report was published in the St Louis Medical and Surgical Journal:
On the evening of the 1st of May, we were summoned in haste to the residence of a gentleman nearby, to see a boy … Read more