Mass delusions

Observations on scurvyAn article published in The Lancet in 1848 contains a remarkable and early example of the power of the placebo effect.  James Turnbull, a doctor at the Liverpool Northern Hospital, wrote an article about the history and effects of scurvy, the condition caused by a lack of vitamin C, for many centuries the scourge of sailors. It includes this gem:… Read more

The miller’s tale

Account of the man with his arm torn offIn 1737 the Philosophical Transactions published a medical case so remarkable that it was still being quoted in journals well over a century later. It was reported by John Belchier, a surgeon at Guy’s Hospital in London and a Fellow of the Royal Society. The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1745 contains this anecdote about him:

One Stephen Wright, who, as a Read more

The man who coughed up a knife

knife blade

Here’s an arresting story from 1870, reported to the Chicago Medical Times by a Dr J.F. Snyder: 

James Thompson, sixty years of age, stout and robust, usually of active habits, suddenly commenced declining in health, without apparent cause. When I was consulted, he had been, as he expressed it, “under the weather for five or six weeks.” His symptoms were Read more

Cured by a lightning bolt

Lightning bolt packet shipOn April 16th 1828 a ship called the New York sailed from its eponymous home port destined for Liverpool. She carried a full complement of passengers and cargo and – as reported in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal shortly afterwards,

on the morning of the 19th, was struck by lightning, which shattered the main royal mast, and, gliding down the Read more