An extraordinary quantity of worms

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

Revealed: the cure for hiccups

A striking report* was published in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1845 by Dr George Dexter, a physician from New York:singular case of hiccough caused by masturbation

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

The trumpeter and the walking stick

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

Asleep while she gave birth

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

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