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

Mr Dendy’s egg-cup case

In 1834 the Lancet published a wonderfully unusual article by Walter Dendy, a surgeon from Blackfriars in London. The heading at the top of each page refers to it simply as ‘Mr Dendy’s Egg-Cup Case’ – a splendid description of a splendid case: Mr Adams, a man 60 years of age, had been afflicted with … Continue reading Mr Dendy’s egg-cup case

He sliced his penis in two

This case sounds so implausible that you may start thinking it’s a spoof. I assure you it’s not: I came across it in Alfred Poulet’s Treatise on Foreign Bodies in Surgical Practice (1880), but it originally appeared almost a century earlier in a book by the French surgeon François Chopart. Chopart was a pioneer of … Continue reading He sliced his penis in two

An unwelcome visitor

A short news item published in 1843 by the Gazette Médicale de Paris contains the sort of case that would give a hypochondriac sleepless nights. It was submitted by Jean Guyon, an eminent military surgeon who spent much of his career studying tropical diseases, in particular yellow fever and cholera. Another of his interests was … Continue reading An unwelcome visitor

The cheese knife lobotomy

This alarming headline was attached to a letter sent to The Lancet in 1838 by Dr Congreve Selwyn, a family physician in Cheltenham. His brief communication related the story of an unfortunate accident which had taken place in his practice some 17 years earlier: William Bishop, living at Hill Farm, Bosbury, Herefordshire, aged four years … Continue reading The cheese knife lobotomy

The seventy-year-old mother-to-be

Here’s a truly strange case that was reported in the Journal de Médécine de Paris in 1881. It concerns an elderly woman who was believed to have fallen pregnant. Such tales were commonly reported in the early medical literature – there are many to be found in 18th-century journals, for instance – but these examples … Continue reading The seventy-year-old mother-to-be

The case of the drunken Dutchman’s guts

On August 28th 1641 the 21-year-old English diarist John Evelyn visited the great university of Leiden in the Netherlands. He was unimpressed, declaring it ‘nothing extraordinary’, but one building took his fancy: Among all the rarities of this place, I was much pleased with a sight of their anatomy-school, theater, and repository adjoining, which is … Continue reading The case of the drunken Dutchman’s guts