A medical old wives’ tale

This story, attributed to the great American physician Benjamin Rush and repeated in a medical journal in 1839, is almost certainly apocryphal – but it has a good punchline.  We are apt to believe a merry companion the happiest fellow in the world, and envy him, perhaps, his light heart and airy spirits; but such … Continue reading A medical old wives’ tale

Killed by a cough

In 1734 James Jamieson, a surgeon from Thurso in the Scottish borders reported this case in the Medical Essays and Observations.  It began with a common-or-garden accident: Some Slates falling from the Roof of a House four Storeys high, upon the Head of a Girl about thirteen Years of Age, broke and shattered her Cranium … Continue reading Killed by a cough

The seven-foot tumour

This brief case report is a reminder that there are certain medical horrors which were once commonplace but which are never seen today in the developed world. Untreatable conditions would progress unhindered, often resulting in terrible deformity. Tumours could reach a size almost unimaginable to the modern mind – although in developing countries such cases … Continue reading The seven-foot tumour

Unfortunate injury of the decade

Here’s a story published 150 years ago in the British Medical Journal which made me wince on at least four separate occasions. At a seminar at the Liverpool Medical Institution in January 1863, the cases presented for discussion included the following: Dr. Nottingham brought forward a case of extraordinary wound of the penis. He said … Continue reading Unfortunate injury of the decade

Impaled on a stake

How about this for a lucky escape?  It’s the sort of grisly farm accident which might be featured in a medical documentary like 24 Hours in A&E, with one significant difference. Anybody unlucky enough to be impaled by a stake today could expect major surgery and a lengthy hospital stay – but this patient made … Continue reading Impaled on a stake

A beetle in the bladder

Insects and spiders colonising the human body were a regular feature of medical journal articles in the 19th century.  For instance, there’s the woman with spiders in her eyes, and the remarkable case of the boy who appeared to have a millipede colony in his stomach. This report involving a beetle appeared in the American Journal … Continue reading A beetle in the bladder

There was an old woman who swallowed a fork…

In 1868 the Medical and Surgical Reporter contained a report of an unusual case received from the physicians of the insane asylum at Zutphen, a town in the Netherlands. The patient was a woman 64 years old, affected with lypemania… Lypemania is an archaic term, meaning an excessive fondness for melancholy. Today a patient suffering … Continue reading There was an old woman who swallowed a fork…

Somewhat silly in his manner

Fans of nominative determination – the idea that a person’s name can have a bearing on their choice of career – may enjoy this little tale from the Virginia Medical Journal, reported in 1857.  It concerns a urologist from Guy’s Hospital, one Mr Cock.  Stop giggling at the back: Mr. Cock, at Guy’s, has recently … Continue reading Somewhat silly in his manner