The spermatorrhoea alarm

observations on spermatorrhoeaIn 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

In hospital for 34 years

A needle in her heart

In December 1886 the Cincinnati Enquirer published an exclusive from its New York correspondent. He had uncovered an amazing story at one of the city’s hospitals – the death of its longest-standing patient. She’d been an inmate there for three decades, but that wasn’t even the most interesting part of the tale:

When Nellie Steele went to the Bellevue Hospital Read more

The slugs and the porcupine

According to an old journalistic adage, if a newspaper headline contains a question the correct answer is always ‘no’. For instance, ‘Could x offer a cure for cancer?’, to which the answer is always ‘no’, whether x is ‘green tea’, ‘mushrooms’ or ‘snake oil’.

This reliable rule of thumb, sometimes known as Betteridge’s Law, applies in spades to the … Read more

A dubious paper

In 1813 the editor of The Medical and Physical Journal, Samuel Fothergill, accepted for publication a paper by John Spence, a Scottish doctor who had moved to Virginia three decades earlier. Spence studied at the University of Edinburgh in the 1780s, a period when its medical school was the finest in the world. He was prevented from graduating by … Read more