The man with the rubber jaw

dental operationsMaxillofacial 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

Medicine or marinade?

External stimulantsEarly 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

Trouble at t’mill

Remarkable case of a lacerated woundLast 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

A case for Dr Coffin

Lateral transfixtionIn 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

Such is the fortitude of females

operation for a new noseRhinoplasty 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