The healing power of nature

At the annual meeting of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association in August 1844, a doctor from Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, Edward Daniell, presented this unusual case. He prefaced his account with the observation that it would ‘perhaps be interesting more from its novelty than for its value in a surgical point of view’. He … Continue reading The healing power of nature

The 43-year pregnancy

In years gone by, it was quite common for a doctor to pass on his practice to one of his children: successive generations of medics might serve their local community for decades. The Watkins family, originally from the Northamptonshire town of Towcester, is an extreme example of such a dynasty: Timothy Watkins (1755-1834) was the … Continue reading The 43-year pregnancy

The cheese knife lobotomy

This alarming headline was attached to a letter sent to The Lancet in 1838 by Dr Congreve Selwyn, a family physician in Cheltenham. His brief communication related the story of an unfortunate accident which had taken place in his practice some 17 years earlier: William Bishop, living at Hill Farm, Bosbury, Herefordshire, aged four years … Continue reading The cheese knife lobotomy

The man whose intestines twinkled like stars

Every so often I read an old medical case that makes me wince and ask myself, “However did they recover from that?” This tale, reported 142 years ago in the Richmond and Louisville Medical Journal, falls squarely into this category. The initial injury was bad enough, but the circumstances of the case presented the surgeon … Continue reading The man whose intestines twinkled like stars

The case of the drunken Dutchman’s guts

On August 28th 1641 the 21-year-old English diarist John Evelyn visited the great university of Leiden in the Netherlands. He was unimpressed, declaring it ‘nothing extraordinary’, but one building took his fancy: Among all the rarities of this place, I was much pleased with a sight of their anatomy-school, theater, and repository adjoining, which is … Continue reading The case of the drunken Dutchman’s guts

Hook, line and Liston

In 1844 the great surgeon Robert Liston gave an influential series of lectures at University College London on the technique of surgery. The second lecture in this series, concerning operations on the neck, includes this unusual case: Occasionally you find very curious foreign bodies lodged in the throat. The following case came under my notice … Continue reading Hook, line and Liston

An extraordinary surgical operation

Last week I came across an article which took my breath away. It was published in 1858, in an American journal, the Medical and Surgical Reporter, and it describes an operation of such audacity and skill that I can’t believe it isn’t better known. This is how it was reported: At the request of a … Continue reading An extraordinary surgical operation