The perils of a sneeze

A few months ago I wrote about the criminal who was lucky to recover after inhaling a fake gold earring. By chance I’ve just come across another case report written by the same Victorian surgeon, Bernard Pitts. Not a well-known figure, principally because he wrote little and shunned publicity. But he seems to have been a very good … Read more

A cautionary tale

This case was reported in the Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital Reports – the in-house journal published by the London hospital of the same name – in 1879. The author of this article, William Steavenson, was a 29-year-old house physician at Barts (as those familiar with the hospital call it). Steavenson’s interests included chronic asthma – from which he had suffered since … Read more

Specific gravity

I came across this unusual case in a book published in 1876, A Dozen Cases: Clinical Surgery by William Tod Helmuth, a distinguished homeopathic surgeon. The phrase ‘homeopathic surgeon’ might sound like a contradiction in terms, if all you know of homeopathy is sugar pills and massively diluted tinctures. But in nineteenth-century America, where homeopathy was one of several rival … Read more

Removed without the least difficulty

Sir William Fergusson was a leading figure in Victorian medicine. A great and widely respected surgeon, he began his career in Edinburgh in the 1820s before moving to London, and the professorship of surgery at King’s College, in 1840. In very little time he established himself as a pillar of the capital’s medical community, and one of its most successful … Read more

Pricked it all over with a fine needle

I recently came across the online archives of the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Journal, the in-house publication of the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Society. The society was founded in Bristol around 1874 and is still very much in existence – as is its journal, albeit in electronic form. In the very first volume of the BMCJ, published in 1883, can … Read more

Hit in the face with a cow’s stomach

In October 1852 a Bristol surgeon called Augustin Prichard gave a talk at the Bath and Bristol branch of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association entitled ‘Extraneous substances in the eye’. Dr Prichard was an eminent local practitioner with a particular interest in ophthalmic surgery: his MD thesis, based on research he conducted in Berlin, was concerned with the … Read more