The safety valve

This case was reported in 1896 in the Medico-Chirurgical Transactions by a surgeon, Rickman Godlee, who was a distant relative of mine (my second cousin five times removed, since you ask).

Godlee was the nephew of Joseph Lister, the originator of antiseptic surgery, whose innovations dramatically reduced the incidence of postoperative infection. A passionate advocate of his uncle’s antiseptic … Read more

A watch spring, a bean and a clove of garlic

An 1868 issue of a French journal, the Bulletin général de thérapeutique médicale et chirurgical, contains this case report contributed by Paul Pamard, chief of surgery at the Hotel Dieu hospital in Avignon. Pamard was unusual among surgeons in combining his medical practice with a successful political career – and at the time of this case he was serving … Read more

Claws for concern

Philipp Franz von Walther was an eminent German surgeon highly regarded for his expertise in ophthalmology and as a pioneer in plastic surgery. While serving as professor at the University of Bonn he was also the co-editor of an influential periodical, the Journal der Chirurgie und Augenheilkunde. In 1822 he published this surprising clinical report, which was subsequently translated (and, … Read more

Odds bodkins

This fascinating case report was published in the Philosophical Transactions in 1701, contributed by a distinguished Dublin physician, Thomas Molyneux. It is notable both for the unusual nature of the injury, and for the remarkably sophisticated surgery that followed.

Dorcas Blake, a full-bodied sanguine maid, of about twenty years old…

Ms Blake was ‘sanguine’ in a particular medical sense. Since … Read more

A remarkable dislocation

Charles White was an eminent Manchester surgeon of the eighteenth century. As a young man he studied anatomy in London with William Hunter, and became friendly with William’s brother John, the outstanding medical scientist of the age. Returning to Manchester, he set up in private practice and co-founded the city’s infirmary in 1752. He also attained considerable fame … Read more

An immense plug of wood

 Sometimes a headline says it all. In June 1842 the London Medical Gazette printed a letter under this memorable title:

Stick in the rectum

The case report that followed was submitted by a retired naval surgeon called Archibald Blacklock (previously featured on this blog, and best known as the man who crept into Robert Burns’s tomb one night in 1834 and took a … Read more