Struck dumb

Today’s likely tale comes from the Canada Medical Journal, where it appeared in 1870.  Dr Chagnon from the wonderfully-named St Pie in Quebec submitted this curiosity, with tongue firmly in cheek: In July, 1868, came to my office a woman with the following history: Two days previous, during a thunder storm, she, according to her own expression, swallowed the thunder! … Continue reading Struck dumb

The worst job in the world?

Occupational diseases are those associated with a particular profession.  The first to be identified was a type of scrotal tumour which disproportionately affected chimney-sweeps: the connection was made in 1775 by Percivall Pott. There are many well-known examples: miners developing the lung disease silicosis; phossy jaw, a disease suffered by match-makers, the result of exposure … Continue reading The worst job in the world?

The case of the luminous patients

In June 1842 the Provincial Medical Journal devoted no less than ten pages to a long essay by the physician Sir Henry Marsh – an eminent namesake of the contemporary neurosurgeon, who was a leading light in Irish medicine and became physician to Queen Victoria.  What subject could be so important that a leading journal … Continue reading The case of the luminous patients

The mystery of the poisonous cheese

In 1835 the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal published a series of articles about cheese.  For several months New England residents had been falling ill after consuming the delicious comestible, and nobody knew why.  A Dr Alcott contributed this account of one such outbreak: At the raising of a building belonging to Seth Thomas, Esq. … Continue reading The mystery of the poisonous cheese

The dreadful mortification

A case published in The Medical Museum of 1781 is a reminder of a world we have gratefully left behind; one in which infection could rapidly maim or kill entire families, while doctors looked on helplessly.  Life could be, in Thomas Hobbes’s phrase, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’.  Hobbes was writing about war, but … Continue reading The dreadful mortification

The winged ones: insects in the stomach

In 1824 the Transactions of the Association of Fellows and Licentiates of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland reported an extraordinary case which would continue to be quoted in the medical literature for many decades.  The case was reported in a paper whose lengthy title was abbreviated to the rather snappier ‘Dr … Continue reading The winged ones: insects in the stomach