Today’s likely tale comes from the Canada Medical Journal, where it appeared in 1870. Dr Chagnon from the wonderfully-named St Pie in Quebec submitted this curiosity, with tongue firmly in cheek: In July, 1868, came to my office a woman with the following history: Two days previous, during a thunder storm, she, according to her own expression, swallowed the thunder! … Continue reading Struck dumb
More from Lorenz Heister’s surgical textbook Chirurgie, published in 1718, on which I have written before. The practice of bloodletting, also known as phlebotomy, was a staple treatment for millennia and still had influential advocates at the end of the nineteenth century. Most people will be aware that doctors used to bleed their patients, but … Continue reading Bleeding you well
It seems appropriate on a Friday to share this warning about the dangers of binge drinking, from William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine. Published in 1808, and aimed at the patient rather than the doctor, this book offers advice on treating the commonest ailments, as well as such matters as clothing, diet and personal hygiene. Dr Buchan … Continue reading In praise of temperance
HMS Grampus, a battleship launched in 1802, ended her days as a hospital ship moored off Greenwich. Between 1816 and 1831, when she was replaced by another retired naval ship – HMS Dreadnought – a steady stream of naval patients was treated on board. In 1821 the ship was taken over by the Seamen’s Hospital … Continue reading Pipe dreams
Scarification is a medical practice which was popular until the early nineteenth century and which thankfully has now been consigned to the history books (and blogs). In concept similar to – but less dramatic than – bleeding, it entailed using a rough implement or blade to make abrasions on the surface of the body. In … Continue reading The eye-brush
Mr J.S. Webster, a surgeon from East Dereham, wrote to the London Medical Journal in 1787 to pass on an unusual case he had encountered in his practice among the poor and needy of Norfolk. Helen Bunnett, or, as she is commonly called, the owl-eyed girl, is thirteen years old, of a fair complexion, with … Continue reading The owl-eyed girl
Early nineteenth-century doctors had some funny ideas about treating infectious disease. Before the discovery of microbes, next to nothing was known about what caused infections, or how to cure them. For many years, physicians believed that stimulating the outer surfaces of the body would have an effect. Several methods of doing so were employed: cupping, … Continue reading Medicine or marinade?
Last week I revealed the dangers of working in the mirror manufacturing trade in 19th-century Bohemia. Here’s another tale of occupational peril, published in The Western Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences in 1833. Mr. J., about twelve weeks since, while standing near the end of the arbor of a heavy grindstone revolving rapidly … Continue reading Trouble at t’mill
Occupational diseases are those associated with a particular profession. The first to be identified was a type of scrotal tumour which disproportionately affected chimney-sweeps: the connection was made in 1775 by Percivall Pott. There are many well-known examples: miners developing the lung disease silicosis; phossy jaw, a disease suffered by match-makers, the result of exposure … Continue reading The worst job in the world?
In the nineteenth century medical attention was a luxury which had to be paid for, and which not all could afford. What, then, would you do if you were living in abject poverty and developed a serious illness? Many people put their faith in traditional remedies or prayer; a few took matters into their own … Continue reading The do-it-yourself hernia operation