Probably the most wonderful phenomenon that has ever come under the observation of the medical fraternity of this city developed itself at the Montcalm House, on Erie street, in the person of a boy named Herbert G. Schwartz. Schwartz senior is a farmer, … Read more
Medics and their journals have always loved a curiosity, however long ago it occurred. This case was reported in the Medical and Surgical Journal in 1871, more than a century after the ghastly events it relates had taken place:
John Stetson, aged thirty-eight, farmer, also accustomed to slaughter cattle, July 19, 1768, in a paroxysm of insanity secreted himself in … Read more
Have you ever wondered how patients in the era before anaesthetics were persuaded to undergo excruciatingly painful operations? The answer – fairly obviously – is ‘with great difficulty’. Some brave souls were able to grit their teeth and bear it, and others made things simpler for the surgeon (and themselves) by simply passing out from the pain.
Most difficult to … Read more
How about this for a lucky escape? It’s the sort of grisly farm accident which might be featured in a medical documentary like 24 Hours in A&E, with one significant difference. Anybody unlucky enough to be impaled by a stake today could expect major surgery and a lengthy hospital stay – but this patient made a total recovery after … Read more
Maxillofacial surgeons are some of the most ridiculously overqualified people on the planet. In the UK it is compulsory for them to hold degrees in both medicine and dentistry, and they can only practise after well over a decade of training. This enviable expertise equips them to undertake a wide range of procedures on the face, jaws and neck. Since … Read more
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