An article from an 1831 edition of the London Medical Gazette begins unpromisingly:
Enlargement of the testes, scrotal tumors, and hydrocele, are common diseases to which the inhabitants of Tahiti, and other islands in the Southern Pacific, are subject; nor are they confined to the natives alone, as Europeans, after a long residence, are equally liable to those affections.
Although … Read more
A peculiar case was reported to readers of The Lancet in 1856 by Dr Jonathan Green, the proprietor of a London business offering therapeutic sulphur baths. One day he encountered a mysterious patient who would not give her name:
She came to my establishment, as it were, determined not to be recognised, wrapped up in a shawl, veil, &c., and … Read more
A grisly tale, but one with a happy ending: John Nedham wrote to the Philosophical Transactions in 1756 with news of a road traffic accident and its consequences:
On the 3d of January 1755, Mr. N. was called to the son of Lancelot Watts (a day-labourer, living at Brunsted) a servant boy to Mr. Pile, a farmer at Westwick, near … Read more
In 1824 the Transactions of the Association of Fellows and Licentiates of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in Ireland reported an extraordinary case which would continue to be quoted in the medical literature for many decades. The case was reported in a paper whose lengthy title was abbreviated to the rather snappier ‘Dr Pickells’ case of insects in … Read more
A previous post about the boy who vomited millipedes proved surprisingly popular – so when I came across this tale of a girl who cried spiders it seemed too good to waste.
On February 5th 1840, Dr Lopez, a physician from Mobile, Alabama, visited a young woman in Charleston. The previous week she had been staying with friends in … Read more
Compulsive swallowers have always featured heavily in medical literature. There are numerous cases in 19th-century journals – but most of the individuals concerned were obviously suffering from some kind of mental illness. This, from the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions for 1823, is the first I’ve come across in which the patient was swallowing knives for a laugh.
In the month … Read more
On the 14th of May, 1867, Dr Jewett of Summit County, Ohio, was called to see Joel Lenn, 27, a French coal miner, who had suffered a serious injury.
While blasting coal in the works of Messrs. Cross & Payne, near this village, the blasting barrel (a 5/8 inch gas pipe four feet in length) struck him near the external … Read more
Here’s a painful tale from The Journal of Foreign Medical Science and Literature, published in 1823: not for children or the squeamish – and likely to make men in particular wince.
On March 17th 1822 Thomas Calloway, a London surgeon, was asked to visit a ‘healthy, muscular’ man aged 44:
On Saturday night, the 8th of March, he came … Read more
The New-Orleans Medical Journal for 1844 contains this tale of a lucky escape, an ingenious doctor and a very naughty grandson:
In the summer of 1837. Mrs. * * * was enjoying her usual siesta, in the afternoon of a warm day, on a pallet spread upon the floor in a cool part of the house :—and while she was … Read more
On the first day of the Ashes Test at Lord’s, here is a cricketing curiosity – a Romantic poet picking up an injury in the winter nets. And evidence that the team physio of the early 19th century always kept the leeches handy.
On Sunday 14th February, 1819, the poet John Keats sat down to write to his brother … Read more