The fire-proof man

The fire-proof manIn 1828 The Lancet reported the antics of  a person they called ‘the fire-proof man’, a Cuban with extraordinary abilities:

The French medical journal, La Clinique, gives an account of the experiments of M. Martinez, the fire-proof man, as he is called, who is now one of the principal objects of attraction at Paris. M. Martinez is not, like the Read more

Scared to death?

Remarkable incidentThe invention of the guillotine in 1789 coincided with a dark era in French history.  The phase of the revolution known as the Terror saw tens of thousands executed by the device, which remained the French executioner’s weapon of choice until the twentieth century. The medical aspects of the guillotine provoked a number of journal articles, in particular discussing how … Read more

Killed by shaving

Case of sudden deathHere’s a case which wouldn’t surprise a modern medic, but which caused considerable puzzlement when it occurred in the first half of the nineteenth century: a patient who died while being shaved. This tale, first reported in Marryat’s London Metropolitan Magazine, was cited by one Dr Joseph Comstock in a letter to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in … Read more

Dead or alive at will

In 1733 a book about depression and mental health was published in Dublin: The English Malady; or, A Treatise of Nervous Diseases of All Kinds, as Spleen, Vapours, Lowness of Spirits, Hypochondriacal and Hysterical Distemper. The author, George Cheyne – born a Scot, though he moved to London – was convinced that the English were uniquely prone to depressive … Read more

The seven-foot tumour

monstrous wombThis brief case report is a reminder that there are certain medical horrors which were once commonplace but which are never seen today in the developed world. Untreatable conditions would progress unhindered, often resulting in terrible deformity. Tumours could reach a size almost unimaginable to the modern mind – although in developing countries such cases do, sadly, still arise.

This … Read more