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
This notable case report was published in the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions in 1852. The author, John Marshall, was a young surgeon in private practice in London; it is not clear how ‘Mrs B.’ came to be his patient, given that she lived in Oxfordshire. Marshall later became a well-known anatomist, a Fellow of the Royal Society and professor of surgery at … Read more
In December 1831 The Lancet reported these strange goings-on in France:
A farmer’s wife, twenty-eight years of age, residing in the neighbourhood of Metz, had for a long time been affected with an unpleasant itching sensation in the nose with coryza…
The OED informs me that coryza comes from the Greek κόρυζα, meaning ‘nasal mucous’. In colloquial English we … Read more
Many medicines prescribed by physicians of the past were chemicals now known to be highly toxic. Mercury, arsenic and antimony were among the harmful substances regularly administered for a variety of conditions. In this case, published in the Philosophical Transactions in 1759, a young boy was apparently cured by another chemical now known to be hazardous to health – but … Read more