Born under a manger

In 1863 a surgeon from the small German town of Gräfenhainichen, Herr Geissler, wrote to one of the Berlin journals to share an extraordinary tale he had encountered in his practice. The publication to which he submitted the case  Monatsschrift für Geburtskunde und Frauenkrankheiten, was devoted to gynaecology and obstetrics and indeed this story is about childbirth – though … Read more

Get Out Of Jail Free

In 1823 a prominent London physician, John Ayrton Paris, published a book in collaboration with a barrister called J. S. Fonblanque. Medical Jurisprudence was the first English-language textbook on the subject, and went through many editions. It was a valuable resource whenever the worlds of law and medicine overlapped – criminal trials, inquests, or claims of medical negligence.

It also … Read more

More than common danger

Sir Astley Cooper was the best known, and best paid, surgeon in early nineteenth-century London. He was a great innovator in the field of vascular surgery, devising new methods of treatment for aneurysms and other conditions of the blood vessels. His expertise was both deep and broad: he was an authority on hernias, limb fractures and amputations, and many other … Read more

A harrowing incident

In 1873 the Chicago Medical Journal published this article by a Dr Stewart from Muscatine, a small Iowa town on the banks of the Mississippi that would later become famous as the world-leading manufacturer of pearl buttons.

The article’s matter-of-fact headline scarcely does justice of the drama to come:

wound of the liver

Anthony B., a lad aged 17, while standing beside a Read more

A week entombed in a snowdrift

In a week that’s seen snow across much of Britain and record low temperatures in parts of the US, this story from the Annals of Medicine for 1799 seems particularly appropriate:

A remarkable and well-authenticated case, of a woman surviving nearly eight days buried in the snow, without food, has occurred this spring, near Impington, in Cambridgeshire.

It’s no exaggeration … Read more

The eye magnet

Today’s story first appeared in the Observationes, a collection of case reports by the German surgeon Wilhelm Fabry (1560-1634).  Fabry, also known as Fabricius Hildanus, is sometimes referred to as the ‘father of German surgery’ and was a methodical and scientific operator whose careful descriptions of his work exerted a powerful influence on later generations of medics.

It isn’t … Read more

The lucky Prussian

Maximilian Joseph von Chelius was a prominent 19th-century German surgeon who had a significant influence on medics right across Europe. His lectures were frequently quoted in the London and Edinburgh journals, and his textbook Handbuch der Chirurgie, translated into English as A System of Surgery, was widely used.

In a chapter devoted to chest injuries, Chelius … Read more