Occupational hazard

Here’s a striking report from The London Medical and Surgical Journal, originally published in March 1837. The headline is straightforward enough:

pin swallowing

Two remarkable cases of this kind I have had an opportunity of seeing weekly, for twelve months. The first occurred at Manchester; the second was in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, under the auspices of Mr. — , and both Read more

Degloved by a donkey

Mercer’s Hospital, founded in 1734, was for many years one of the most important teaching hospitals in Ireland – but it is perhaps most readily associated today with a piece of music. In  1742 the first performance of Handel’s Messiah took place in Dublin in a fundraising concert for local charities – Mercer’s Hospital among them.

In 1869 The Medical Read more

The stomach snail

William Rhind, a Scottish surgeon of the nineteenth century, had impressively broad interests. He was a botanist of some eminence, publishing a 700-page textbook on the subject which remained in print for over forty years. He was also an expert in geology – although his firm view that the Earth was only around 4000 years old, consistent with the Bible, … Read more

Fourteen fingers

August is sometimes known as the ‘silly season’: a period of the year when little seems to be happening, politics grinds to a halt, and newspaper editors are forced to publish nonsense they wouldn’t even consider putting into print at other times of the year.

This story, from an 1844 edition of a French journal, the Gazette des hôpitaux civils Read more

A likely story

The French surgeon Jean Civiale was one of the most significant figures in the history of urology, the branch of medicine dedicated to the urinary (and male reproductive) systems. In the 1820s he devised the technique of lithotripsy to treat bladder stones, the first minimally invasive surgical procedure. Until then, the only way to remove such stones had been to … Read more

“Oh, I’ll tell you another time”

In 1811 the novelist Fanny Burney underwent a mastectomy for suspected breast cancer. The operation was a total success: she lived for another 28 years without any recurrence of the tumour. Burney recorded her experience in a searing letter to her sister Esther. It’s a masterpiece of descriptive writing, an account so vivid that every agonising touch of the … Read more