Can the human body spontaneously catch fire? For many years people believed that it could. Spontaneous human combustion was a topic that fascinated medics and the general public for many years. In the early nineteenth century it was widely believed to be a genuine phenomenon, caused by some quirk of human physiology (I’ve previously written about one celebrated case from … Read more
William Rhind, a Scottish surgeon of the nineteenth century, had impressively broad interests. He was a botanist of some eminence, publishing a 700-page textbook on the subject which remained in print for over forty years. He was also an expert in geology – although his firm view that the Earth was only around 4000 years old, consistent with the Bible, … Read more
The French surgeon Alphonse Guérin is hardly a household name today – but for a brief period in the late nineteenth century he was a European celebrity. Summoned to Rome to treat Pope Pius IX for a leg ulcer, he made such an impression that the pontiff expressed his thanks by describing him as ‘the greatest surgeon in Christendom’. Guérin … Read more
In 1889 a surgeon from the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin, Kendal Franks, wrote a notable case report for the British Medical Journal. His subject was renal calculus, otherwise known as kidney stones. During an operation in October that year he had removed a stone which was quite unlike anything he’d seen before.
The specimen is composed chiefly of … Read more
In 1801 a contingent of 20,000 soldiers commanded by General Charles Leclerc, the brother-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte, set sail for the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Their mission was to recapture the former French colony of Saint-Domingue, now under the control of the former slave Toussaint Louverture. Known as the Saint-Domingue expedition, the two-year campaign was a disaster for all … Read more
Some time since, a singular case of hiccough was placed under my treatment. Its origin evidently was from long-continued masturbation.
Dr Dexter appears remarkably confident in this assertion. On what grounds, you might reasonably ask – with … Read more
In is not unheard of for a soldier to be killed as the result of a swordfight. But it is not often that the circumstances are quite as unusual as those of this case, published in The Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science in 1851 – with a patient who looked so little injured that the regimental medical officer assumed … Read more
Things have been rather quiet on this blog in recent weeks, so apologies if you’ve been missing your regular fix of wince-inducing medical history. I’ve been busy working on a book which will be published in a few months’ time. The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth (and other curiosities from the history of medicine) brings together around 70 of the … Read more
At a meeting of the Pathological Society of London in 1855, members were shown a specimen that might have been better suited to a geological society rather than one devoted to the study of disease. The object in question, which looked like a lump of brick, had been supplied by Edward Lacy, a surgeon from Poole. Mr Lacy was … Read more
In 1843 the Provincial Medical Journal published a landmark paper by Dr W.H. Ranking from Suffolk. It was a ‘landmark’ in that it was the first full-length publication in English to discuss a new disease that was soon to become the scourge of the male population: spermatorrhoea. Or, in plain English, involuntary ejaculation.
The person who first brought this worrying … Read more