In 1867 The Medical Press and Circular published a series of articles by the physician Dr John Chapman on a subject in which he was a world authority: flatulence. To be fair to Dr Chapman, he was also an influential publisher and an expert in psychology specialising in ‘neurotics’ – those we would now describe as suffering from anxiety disorders. … Read more
Around 7,000 people in the US are bitten by venomous snakes every year. Many of these are rattlesnake bites, but thanks to modern medicine there are only a handful of fatalities. The most important breakthrough of the last century was the invention of antivenin (also known as antivenom) – a remedy made by injecting rattlesnake venom into animals and then … Read more
This is hay fever season (if you’re reading this in the northern hemisphere, at least) – the time of year when airborne pollen makes life a misery for anybody unlucky enough to be allergic to the stuff. The condition is incurable, but a range of drugs including antihistamines can reduce the symptoms significantly. No such luck in the nineteenth century, … Read more
In 1843 a Dr T.O. Ward wrote to the London Medical Gazette on the subject of pain. A previous correspondent had suggested that victims of asphyxiation felt nothing and were insensible to pain. Dr Ward begged to differ, drawing on his own childhood as evidence:
When a boy, I was very fond of making boyish experiments on my powers of … Read more
Morning sickness is a common affliction which affects the majority of pregnant women. A few suffer a far more debilitating form known as hyperemesis gravidarum, in which vomiting is so severe that dehydration and weight loss can occur. The Duchess of Cambridge required hospital treatment for the complication while pregnant with Prince George.
In September 1842 Charles Meigs, Professor … Read more
It must have been a slow news week when The Medical Record decided to print the following story in July 1874. Any journalist is familiar with the terror of an imminent deadline and acres of empty space that need to be filled, but I’d like to think I’d never be so desperate that I had to resort to filling it … Read more
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was one of the most celebrated Englishmen of the eighteenth century. He spent years travelling the country, speaking in fields and town squares and preaching his distinctive version of Protestantism, one which stressed personal holiness, charity and asceticism – though without any of the puritanical excesses of Calvinism. One biographer estimates that Wesley travelled … Read more
Exciting news from the world of medical technology was reported in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1850. The following announcement was a late example of the mania for galvanic (i.e., electrical) medicine which began in the eighteenth century. For many decades, after the investigation of electrical phenomena began in earnest, electric current was believed to be a panacea … Read more
It being Shrove Tuesday, I thought I’d write a short post about pancakes. Not how to make them, or the reasons for eating them today, but their little-known nineteenth-century medical uses. Yes, really.
Oddly, the pancake enjoyed a short-lived vogue in the world of gynaecology and obstetrics. Why it should have been particularly associated with female reproductive disorders is anybody’s … Read more
Physician, chemist, writer and revolutionary: Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a remarkable man in a remarkable age. Arguably the greatest physician America had yet produced, he was an early and tireless advocate for vaccination, an authority on epidemic disease and wrote the first American textbook on mental health. He was also controversial: during a dreadful outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia … Read more