A practical joke

Some of the greatest advances in nineteenth-century surgery were made by military surgeons. British surgeons were not exactly short of opportunities: the country’s military forces began the century at war with France, and ended it fighting the Boers, with barely a peaceful year in between. While battlefield injuries provided horribly frequent opportunities for improving surgical … Continue reading A practical joke

Irritating the genitals by various means

One of the most popular stories on this blog is that of the nineteenth-century Frenchman who cut his own penis in two for sexual gratification. If you type the keywords ‘man cut penis two’ into pretty much any search engine, it’s the top hit – on the entire internet.  If that’s not success, I don’t … Continue reading Irritating the genitals by various means

She swallowed a mouse

In 1833 one Dr Heymann, a doctor from the Westphalian town of Oldendorf, submitted a really rather extraordinary case to a German journal, Hufelands Journal der practischen Heilkunde. It is almost certainly without parallel in the medical literature, given that the headline translates as ‘A living mouse swallowed’: A desperately poor labourer in the village … Continue reading She swallowed a mouse

Cosmetic(s) surgery

This unexpected discovery was reported in a French journal, the Répertoire Generale d’Anatomie, in 1827. The patient was treated by Guillaume Dupuytren, the leading French surgeon of the day – although this was far from being one of his most celebrated cases: Ann G—, forty-five years old, presented herself at a consultation of the Hotel-Dieu, … Continue reading Cosmetic(s) surgery

The lithophagus

Unless you’re a marine biologist, the chances are that you’ve never used the word ‘lithophagus’.  You may have eaten one, however: Lithophaga is a genus of mussels, some of whose species are edible, often served in a garlic, white wine and parsley sauce with plenty of crusty bread. Delicious. But I digress. ‘Lithophagus’ comes from … Continue reading The lithophagus

Born in a cesspit

This strange little tale appeared in the London Medical and Surgical Journal in June 1832:  A curious case of this description became the subject of investigation at the Bow-street Police Office, a few days ago. Interestingly, this crime was not being investigated by what we would regard as the ‘official’ police. London’s Metropolitan Police had been set … Continue reading Born in a cesspit

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, … Continue reading The lucky Prussian