An ‘unnatural propensity’ and its perils

Until the early twentieth century, medicine had little to say about heart disease.  Although the best specialists of the nineteenth century became remarkably adept at distinguishing between different types of congenital defects using little more than the stethoscope and physical symptoms, they remained almost clueless about acquired conditions – and, in particular, what caused them.  … Continue reading An ‘unnatural propensity’ and its perils

Lettuce, a Class A drug

A post last week referred to Andrew Duncan, founder of the Medical and Philosophical Commentaries, the first regular medical journal published in the United Kingdom.  In 1810 he wrote a paper for a publication slightly less well known for its original medical research, the Memoirs of the Caledonian Horticultural Society.  His subject?  Lettuce.  Opium, or … Continue reading Lettuce, a Class A drug

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

The case of the luminous patients

In June 1842 the Provincial Medical Journal devoted no less than ten pages to a long essay by the physician Sir Henry Marsh – an eminent namesake of the contemporary neurosurgeon, who was a leading light in Irish medicine and became physician to Queen Victoria.  What subject could be so important that a leading journal … Continue reading The case of the luminous patients