The greatest phenomenon that nature has known

In 1849 a Spanish journal, La crónica de los hospitales, published a case supposed to have occurred some forty years earlier in the Mexican port of Veracruz – at the time, a Spanish colony. It was recorded in private notes made in 1809 by Dr Faustino Rodriguez, a distinguished practitioner of the city, but for some reason had never … Read more

Irritating the genitals by various means

One of the most popular stories on this blog is that of the nineteenth-century Frenchman who cut his own penis in two for sexual gratification. If you type the keywords ‘man cut penis two’ into pretty much any search engine, it’s the top hit – on the entire internet.  If that’s not success, I don’t know what is.

That … 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

The poison taker

There is a long and often honourable history of self-experimentation in medicine.  Medical pioneers have often been unwilling or unable to test a new therapy on living patients, since the potential harm to a volunteer was just too great to justify. But what if the researcher is convinced that the treatment they have spent years developing really will prove beneficial? … Read more

The lithophagus

Unless you’re a marine biologist, the chances are that you’ve never used the word ‘lithophagus’.  You may have eaten one, however: Lithophaga is a genus of mussels, some of whose species are edible, often served in a garlic, white wine and parsley sauce with plenty of crusty bread. Delicious.

But I digress.

‘Lithophagus’ comes from two Greek words: λίθος, … Read more

A dangerous weapon

The Northern Journal of Medicine was a short-lived periodical which appeared for only two years before being acquired by a more successful competitor. But it had some illustrious contributors: published in Edinburgh, it was able to include papers by some of the most eminent medical academics in Europe. The very first edition, which appeared in May 1844, included this article … Read more

Twice bitten

On February 23rd, 1872, the Philadelphia Post published a breathtakingly crass news story:

Lion tamer's perilA thrilling scene occurred on Wednesday in this city. A lion-tamer came within an ace of being torn to pieces by a royal Bengal tiger, with which he was imprisoned in a cage.

“Thrilling”? I wonder how many of the witnesses of this ghastly event … Read more

The colonic carpentry kit

foreign correspondenceThe ‘foreign correspondence’ pages of one 1861 issue of the Medical Times contain an eclectic selection of stories. The first concerns the ‘sucking apparatus of infants’ (i.e., babies’ mouths). But the following case was the one that caught my eye – headlined Foreign Body in the Transverse Colon:

A very curious case of this affection occurred a short time Read more