Breaking news: swallowing knives is bad for you

Compulsive swallowers have always featured heavily in medical literature.  There are numerous cases in 19th-century journals – but most of the individuals concerned were obviously suffering from some kind of mental illness.  This, from the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions for 1823, is the first I’ve come across in which the patient was swallowing knives for a laugh. In … Continue reading Breaking news: swallowing knives is bad for you

Death of a 152-year-old (or was he?)

William Harvey is deservedly one of the most famous physicians who ever lived.  His demonstration that the heart is a pump which circulates blood throughout the body was a triumph of early modern science, a discovery that revolutionised medicine. In addition to De Motu Cordis, the treatise in which he details the sophisticated experiments and … Continue reading Death of a 152-year-old (or was he?)

The combustible countess

Spontaneous human combustion became a fashionable topic in the early nineteenth century, when a number of sensational presumed cases were reported in the popular press.  Charles Dickens even killed off Krook, the alcoholic rag dealer in Bleak House, in this manner. Sometimes the body of the victim was the only thing that had been burnt, … Continue reading The combustible countess