In 1777 a local surgeon wrote to the Medical and Philosophical Commentaries to pass on a story he had heard from a former patient. It concerns an officer in the East India Company who had been injured during the siege of Janna. I can find no trace of a siege of this name, but the dates suggest it may have … Read more
Early nineteenth-century doctors had some funny ideas about treating infectious disease. Before the discovery of microbes, next to nothing was known about what caused infections, or how to cure them. For many years, physicians believed that stimulating the outer surfaces of the body would have an effect. Several methods of doing so were employed: cupping, in which partially-evacuated glasses were … Read more
Last week I revealed the dangers of working in the mirror manufacturing trade in 19th-century Bohemia. Here’s another tale of occupational peril, published in The Western Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences in 1833.
Mr. J., about twelve weeks since, while standing near the end of the arbor of a heavy grindstone revolving rapidly by water power, … Read more
In 1837 a Canadian teenager tripped over while walking back to his parents’ house. The accident did not hurt much, but it made him strangely famous: journals on both sides of the Atlantic reported the case with astonishment, and the story was reproduced in several anthologies of medical curiosities. And it really is extraordinary.
The tale was first reported in … Read more
Earlier this week I spent a day in an operating theatre watching heart surgery. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life: six hours standing by as exceptionally brave and skilful people did things which would have been thought impossible fifty years ago.
Several medics warned me that I might faint: “Lots of people do the first … Read more
A remarkable recovery from a goring by a bull was recorded in 1774 in the pages of the Medical and Philosophical Commentaries.
Published in Edinburgh, this was the first regular medical journal to be published in the British Isles and had been founded the previous year by the physician Andrew Duncan (the elder).
Dr Robert Maclagan from Coaltulach … Read more
Rhinoplasty is one of the oldest surgical operations, known to have been practised by the Indian surgeon Sushruta in the 1st millennium BC, and with great sophistication in the 17th century by the Italian physician Gaspare Tagliacozzi, who created new noses from the muscles of the upper arm.
This case reported in the 1830s in The New … Read more
November 5th has long been a busy night for practitioners of emergency medicine. Injuries caused by fireworks are as old as the things themselves – but one case reported by a Dr Beaumont in The Lancet in 1862 was a particularly lucky escape. The patient sustained a serious brain injury and somehow escaped with his life:
James W—, aged … Read more
I imagine that most doctors have had to treat at least one patient who has been unlucky or stupid enough to end up with a foreign body lodged in one of their orifices. Early journals are full of such cases, from pieces of metal swallowed by mistake to insects which took up lodgings in a patient’s ear.
In 1840 the … Read more
A short but – to me – fascinating article from the Medico-Chirurgical Review. Surgeons are now quite adept at reattaching fingers, toes or even entire hands after cases of accidental amputation, assuming the separated part has been carefully preserved: celebrated cases include Arsenio Matias, who had both hands reattached after an industrial accident, and Everett Knowles, the … Read more