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.
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 would make it the main … Read more
It used to be thought dangerous to give a hot horse cold water; when I first heard this canard as a schoolboy I remember my informant telling me gravely that cold water kills horses instantly. Not having much to do with horses, it has taken me thirty years to discover that few, if any, equine deaths are attributed to … Read more
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. in Plymouth, Litchfield county, Conn. … Read more
I imagine that most doctors have had to treat at least one patient who has been unlucky or stupid enough to end up with a foreign body lodged in one of their orifices. Early journals are full of such cases, from pieces of metal swallowed by mistake to insects which took up lodgings in a patient’s ear.
In 1840 the … Read more
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 disease was as formidable an … Read more
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 Pickells’ case of insects in … Read more
In 1872 a case reported in The Lancet made quite a stir in the international journals. For once, it concerned a patient who was perfectly healthy – although he had spent four years persuading London’s leading doctors that he was gravely ill. He was regarded as a fraudster and condemned as a malingerer – but this looks a clear-cut case … Read more
This extraordinary tale appeared in The Medico-Chirurgical Review in 1825:
Rachel Hertz had lived in the enjoyment of good health up to her fourteenth year; she was then of a fair complexion, and rather of the sanguineous temperament. In August 1807, she was seized with a violent attack of cholic, which induced her to apply to Professor Hecholdt, and this … Read more
Mademoiselle Melanie had enjoyed good health up to the age of twenty-one, when she began to suffer from dry cough, with pain in the chest and headache; in January, 1841, she was attacked by pleurisy of the right side, and since then has continued to suffer from pain in that region.… Read more