Glass half-empty

The remarkable headline above graced the pages of the American Journal of the Medical Sciences in April 1849.  In case you’re wondering, the two injuries are not related: the author just thought he’d put his two most spectacular cases in the same article. Dr W.S.W Ruschenberger, surgeon to the US Navy, writes: While recently on … Continue reading Glass half-empty

Aleing all day, and oiling all night

Those who think that morbid obesity is a uniquely modern phenomenon should read William Wadd’s ‘Comments on Corpulency’, published over several issues of the London Medical Gazette in 1828.  In a long essay he considered dozens of cases he had encountered, many of whom would be today under the care of a bariatric surgeon.  Here’s … Continue reading Aleing all day, and oiling all night

Almost to the ground

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 … Continue reading Almost to the ground

All’s well that ends well

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 North-Walsham, Norfolk, aged 13 years. He was overturned … Continue reading All’s well that ends well

The winged ones: insects in the stomach

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 … Continue reading The winged ones: insects in the stomach

Spiders in her eyes

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 … Continue reading Spiders in her eyes

Breaking news: swallowing knives is bad for you

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 … Continue reading Breaking news: swallowing knives is bad for you

At least it got rid of the tapeworm…

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) … Continue reading At least it got rid of the tapeworm…

Difficulty getting it down

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 … Continue reading Difficulty getting it down