Oshkosh, by gosh

Severe fracture of the skullHere’s a spectacular head injury (and recovery) reported in the Transactions of the Wisconsin State Medical Society in 1869.  This lucky, lucky man survived an accident which left him with a large portion of his brain hanging out of his skull. The unusual case was reported by Dr Linde of Oshkosh, Wisconsin – a city perhaps best known today as … Read more

Trees do not grow in humans

In June 1879 the Chicago Telegraph made quite a splash with a story published under this headline:Extraordinary case

Probably the most wonderful phenomenon that has ever come under the observation of the medical fraternity of this city developed itself at the Montcalm House, on Erie street, in the person of a boy named Herbert G. Schwartz.  Schwartz senior is a farmer, Read more

Penis in a bottle

foreign body in the urethraA regular feature of any hospital accident and emergency department is the patient who turns up in an embarrassing and self-inflicted predicament. When questioned about the nature of the injury and how it came about, they come up with an utterly implausible explanation. One example: “I was standing on a chair in the nude, trying to close the window, and … Read more

A medical old wives’ tale

hypochondriasisThis 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 men have hours of melancholy, Read more

Killed by a cough

brain forcedIn 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 at the Place where Read more

The seven-foot tumour

monstrous wombThis 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 do, sadly, still arise.

This … Read more