On a warm August afternoon a man in his fifties is enjoying a game of bowls in the affluent English town of Tunbridge Wells. Suddenly he passes out and falls to the ground, apparently dead. If this scene were unfolding today, an ambulance would probably arrive in a few minutes, and paramedics would attempt resuscitation before whisking the poor man … Read more
Eighteenth-century authors were fond of giving their books ridiculously long titles – often so lengthy that they weren’t titles at all, but rather pedantic descriptions of each volume’s contents. Today I came across the longest book title I think I’ve ever seen – and it’s a medical book, first published in 1781: Hugh Smythson’s Compleat Family Physician. (That’s only … Read more
I was fascinated to stumble across this seventeenth-century autopsy report in an old edition of the British Medical Journal. It was unearthed by Benjamin (later Sir Benjamin) Ward Richardson, one of the great figures of Victorian medicine. His name is less familiar today than that of his friend John Snow, the leading British exponent of early anaesthesia, but … Read more
This is one of my favourite nineteenth-century cases, which I originally intended to include in my forthcoming book but which didn’t quite make it to the final manuscript. It was written by Dr T. Davis, from the small Worcestershire town of Upton-upon-Severn, and published in the Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association in 1834:
On Saturday evening, January … Read more
People who wear dentures sometimes lose them, as you might mislay a pair of glasses, but it’s rare to do it in quite this fashion. This case, from the 1842 volume of Guy’s Hospital Reports, was reported by one W.G. Carpenter.
Mr. H., aged 35, the subject of the present case, was an Assistant to Mr. Watts, an extensive … Read more
Some interesting experiments were made at the Society of Arts last week by Dr. Chambers, to test the efficacy of a plant known as Guaco in Central America, or a plant nearly resembling it, as an antidote to the bite of numerous snakes.
The Society for … Read more
There were plenty of doctors in the nineteenth century who thought that smoking was good for you; so there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary in this excerpt from an article published in the Medical Press and Circular in 1871:
So much, and often so much nonsense, is prated about the evils of tobacco that its virtues rarely get a … Read more
In 1824 King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamāmalu of Hawaii made a state visit to Britain. The kingdom of Hawaii had been established in 1795 and was known in Europe as the Sandwich Islands, a name given by Captain James Cook on his voyages in 1778. The king and queen arrived in May 1824, and toured London. They were due … Read more
Last night was a dramatic one in London, with electrical storms and flash floods. It’s been a bad year for deaths by lightning: Bangladesh has seen a near-record 261 fatalities so far in 2016, and there have been an unusual number of deaths and injuries in Europe. This week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week in the USA, where over 50 … Read more
In July 1842 the London Medical Gazette printed one of the most intriguing headlines in the history of the journal:
John Lydbury, aged 60, labourer, was brought to the hospital on Monday, June 27th, when … Read more